Skip to main content

Full text of "Moralia; twenty essays. Translated by Philemon Holland"

See other formats





















London : J. M. DENT & SONS, Ltd. 
New York: E. P. DUTTON & CO. 



traits/ate cC jSy 






P. 140, lines 32 and 35, for " cVixcupeor/taKia," read " itrLxaipKaKla." 

P. 178, line 11, for " ij8d /xol," read " i]8v /xoi." 

P. 306, line 21, for " 'iraipos," read " iralpos. 

P. 64, note, for " /ecu," read " Kal" 

P. 162, note, for "pv^ep^v," read " rpvcpepifiv." 


Philemon Holland, designated (not inaptly) by Fuller as 
" the translator-generall of his age," was born at Chelmsford in 
1 552, the year of Spenser's birth, and twelve years before Shake- 
speare. He was educated at Chelmsford Grammar School, and 
at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was a pupil of Whit- 
gift, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury. He not only took 
his degree of M.A., but, later in life, graduated M.D. As no 
record of this degree is to be found in the Oxford or Cambridge 
registers, it has been thought that it was conferred upon him 
either at a Scotch or Continental University. 

Soon after taking his M.D., Holland settled at Coventry, 
which was to be his home till he died in 1637 (the year of Ben 
Jonson's death). His medical practice being small, he eked 
out his time and a somewhat precarious income by devoting 
himself to translations of the classics. The chief of these 
translations, published in vast folios that are nowadays some- 
what scarce and difficult to procure, are: Livy, Ammianus 
Marcellinus, Pliny's Natural History, Suetonius, and the 
Morals of Plutarch. The most popular of these versions was, 
perhaps, the Pliny, issued in two folios in 160 1. The Plutarch 
was published two years later; twenty years after his death 
it was re-issued, in " a revised and corrected " form, we are 
told. Since then it has not been reprinted until now; the 
present volume is a selection from the moral essays of the 
popular Greek writer, whose Parallel Lives, as Englished by 
North, have become an English classic. 

In the year 1608, Holland, already famous as a translator 
(even in an age of famous translations), became usher of the 
free school at Coventry ; twenty years later he was appointed 
to the headmastership. He was an old man at the time of 
his appointment; and the duties — at any time irksome to a 
scholar of his parts — must have proved too exhausting. 
Whatever be the cause, he resigned the post at the end of ten 
months. The remainder of his life was clouded by pecuniary 
anxieties. The res angusta domi was, unhappily, no trifling 
nor temporary discomfort, aggravated as it was by failing 
health. It is, however, to be remarked that in 1632 a small 

viii Plutarch's Morals 

pension — a pittance, rather — was awarded him by the city- 
he had served so well both in scholastic and civic capacities; 
and not long afterwards, in consideration of his " learning and 
worthy parts," he received some monetary assistance from 
Magdalene College, Cambridge. It was not creditable that 
his own college, " the royal and religious foundation " of 
Trinity, apparently made no provision for her distinguished 
" alumnus," despite his evident claims on her liberality. 

Holland was, almost to the end, an indefatigable student. 
His contemporaries, prone to notice such trivialities, remarked 
{inter alia) that he never wore spectacles ; and it was commonly 
reported that he wrote one of his folios with a single quill pen. 
His eyesight must have been extraordinarily good. There is 
a beautiful specimen, still preserved at Coventry, of his Greek 
caligraphy; and Baskerville — a fine judge in such matters — 
borrowed this when cutting the matrices for his famous fount 
of Greek type. 

Holland's renderings are, in their own way, unique. " He 
had," says one writer, " a most admirable knack in translating 
books . . . several of the most obscure being translated by 
him, one of which was Plutarch's Morals." Pope, in the 
Dunciad, mentions the fine old Tudor writer only to gibe at the 
" weight " (in avoirdupois) of his huge folios — a just enough 
criticism, it is true, but apt to mislead the unwary reader. 
It was an age of huge folios; most of them do but cumber 
the shelves in our great public libraries, where they lie, un- 
dusted and unread. But the books of Philemon Holland 
deserve a better fate than to be ensepulchred in the untoward 
company of forgotten divines. They have a fine literary 
flavour about them; there is a spaciousness of diction, com- 
bined with a pomp of words, in their pages which arrests and 
charms those of us who have grown aweary of the smart- 
ness and trim perspicacity of the Macaulayesque tradition. 
*' Construes " his renderings certainly are not; but they are 
translations in the best sense of the term; that is, they 
" carry over " the sense of the original into an alien language, 
not without a considerable — perhaps undue — heightening of 
effects. Of the severity and self-constraint of the Latin or 
Greek they have little trace; grave Roman and delicate 
Hellene appear, in his pages, tricked in the ruffles of the 
Elizabethan age. Holland has indeed transmuted the form 
of his original, and given it alike the spaciousness and the 
quaintness of a later and more elaborate epoch. 

Introduction ix 

Let me take, by way of illustration, an example from Livy ; 
I give first of all a literal rendering of the Latin, followed by 
Holland's version: the passage is from the celebrated twenty- 
first book, where the Roman historian gives us an unforget- 
able picture of Hannibal's crossing of the Alps. 

" On the ninth day they reached the crest of the Alps by paths for the 
most part trackless, and by winding ways, caused either by the treachery 
of the guides, or, when these latter were distrusted, by rash entry into 
valleys on the part of men conjecturing as to the route. For two days 
fixed quarters were held on the ridge, and rest was allowed the soldiers 
wearied by toil and fighting ; and a number of beasts of burden, which 
had fallen among the rocks, reached camp by following the footprints of 
the column. To men wearied with the fatigue of so many misfortunes, 
a fall of snow (for the Pleiades were now setting) brought fresh alarm. 
When, after the standards had been moved forward at dawn, the column 
was advancing over ground everywhere blocked with snow, and listlessness 
and despair were noticeable in the looks of all, Hannibal moved to the van; 
he bade his soldiers halt on a certain spur of rock, whence there was a 
view far and wide, and pointed out Italy and the plains about the Padus 
lying at the foot of the Alps ; saying that they were crossing not only the 
walls of Italy, but the walls also of Rome. The rest of the journey would 
be straightforward, and downhill. By one, or at most two, battles, they 
would hold in their power and grip the citadel and capital of Italy." 

This appears in Holland's version as follows: 

" The ninth day he woon the verie tops of the Alpes, through by-lanes 
and blind cranks: after he had wandered many times out of the way, 
either through the deceitfulness of their guides, or for that, when they 
durst not trust them, they adventured rashly themselves upon the vallies, 
and guessed the way at adventure, and went by aime. Two days abode 
he encamped upon the tops thereof; and the soldiers, wearied with 
travaile and fight, rested that time: certain also of the sumpter horses 
(which had slipt aside from the rockes) by following the tracks of the 
armie as it marched, came to the campe. When they were thus over- 
toiled and wearied with these tedious travailes, the snow that fell — for 
now the starre Vergilie was set and gone downe out of that horizon — 
increased their feare exceedingly. Now wheneas at the breake of day the 
ensignes were set forward, and the army marched slowly, through the 
thicke and deepe snow; and that there appeared in the countenance of 
them all slouthfulness and desperation: Anniball advanced before the 
standerds, and commaunded his soldiours to stay upon a certaine high hill 
(from whence they had a goodly prospect and might see a great way all 
about them), and there showed unto them Italie, and the goodly champion 
fields about the Po, which lie hard under the foote of the Alpine mountains; 
saying, That even then they mounted the walls, not only of Italy but 
also of the citie of Rome; as for all besides (saith hee) will be plaine and 
easie to be travelled: and, after one or two battles at the most, ye shall 
have at your command the verie castle and head citie of all Italy." 

Philemon Holland's knowledge of the classics, unlike that 
of North, who made his version through the proxy of Amyot's 
renderings, was accurate and thorough. But above all, his 
knowledge of his mother tongue was rare and consummate. 
" Have I not (he asks) Englished every word aptly ? " There 
is but one answer; apt he was, not in rendering one author, 

x Plutarch's Morals 

but in all that he attempted. He had a positive genius for 
style, the distinguished Tudor style, so full of music, so rich, 
so ardent. He has none of the " concinnity " (to use such a 
word) of the writers of a succeeding date; he produced his 
effects by means familiar enough to Jeremy Taylor, to Hooker, 
to Milton, but alien from the austerity of his models as from 
the fashion of essayists trained in the later French school. 

Old Thomas Fuller, in discoursing upon Holland, declared 
" that the books alone of his turning into English will make 
a country gentleman a complete library for historians." Be 
that as it may — and the implied compliment has something 
of a double edge — we may safely accept the dictum of a just 
and clear-sighted modern critic 1 when he says: "Philemon 
Holland still remains the first translator of his age ; and if the 
Bible is the Shakespeare of translation, then Philemon Holland 
is the ingenious Ben Jonson of a splendid craft." 

Note on Plutarch 

Curiously, little is known of the life of Plutarch, considering 
his fame both in ancient and modern times. The main facts 
appear to be as follows: He was born somewhere about 
a.d. 50, at Chaeronea, in Bceotia. He studied at Athens 
under Ammonius, a philosopher of some distinction at the 
time, whose lectures and teaching gave a lasting bent to his 
pupil's mind; for Plutarch was nothing if not a moral philo- 
sopher. The aim of his life, as it has been justly said, was 
the illumination of mind by morality; even his biographies 
are ethical. 

He travelled a little, visiting, among other places, Egypt. 
But it was with Italy, and Rome, that he became most familiar, 
and his sojourn in the great metropolis — where he gave 
lectures on philosophical questions — was, doubtless, a deter- 
mining factor in his own intellectual life. At Rome he con- 
tracted a number of friendships, though his lack of acquaint- 
ance with Latin literature may have deprived him of the full 
value of such friendship, from the purely intellectual stand- 

On returning to his native town Plutarch devoted himself 
not merely to writing biographies and essays, but to the active 
business of civic life, even in the circumscribed sphere in which 

1 Mr. Charles Whibley, in his Introduction to the reprint of Holland's 
Suetonius in the Tudor Translations Series (1899). 

Introduction xi 

he found himself. It was no part of his duty, as he conceived 
it, to become the mere scholar-recluse; his ideal of civic 
virtue forbade it. The ethical side of his character was as 
pronounced in the practical, as in the contemplative, side of 
life. It is certain that his Lives would not have possessed the 
influence that they have assuredly exercised on men so widely 
different as Rabelais, Montaigne, Jeremy Taylor, Rousseau, 
and Shakespeare, had he allowed the high duties of an en- 
lightened citizenship to remain unemployed. As it is, the 
Lives have had more influence on the modern world than 
almost any other book of classical antiquity. 1 Of Shake- 
speare's indebtedness to Plutarch little need be said; it is 
writ large in many of his historical plays, as every student is 

The M or alia, or " Morals," are less well known than these 
biographical portraits, but they are worthy of attention, if 
only for the admirable spirit which breathes through the sixty 
odd " essays " of which the collection is composed. The 
essay on Superstition (included in the present selection) is, 
says a good authority, " one of the most eloquent and closely- 
reasoned compositions of antiquity." 2 Though not a deep 
thinker, " the devout and cultured " 3 Plutarch was a man of 
rare gifts, with an encyclopaedic range. We love him for his 
kindliness and his urbanity, his sincerity and his real goodness 
of heart. Professor Mahafry has happily described him as 
" the spokesman of the better life that still survived in the 
Greek world," in the autumn of its history. 4 

As to the chronological order of his works, we are still 
greatly in the dark. Probably their composition was spread 
over a considerable period ; none appear to have been written 
in early life. If we date the bulk of his essays as belonging 
to the years a.d. 90-110, we shall probably not be far astray. 
He died somewhere about a.d. 120. 


The King's School, Ely. 
December 31, 1911. 

1 " As a literary art ancient biography reached its highest perfection 
in Plutarch's gallery of great men " (Bury, Ancient Greek Historians). 

8 Cf. Campbell, Religion in Greek Literature, p. 372; Taylor, Ancient 
Ideals, ii. 79; Bigg, The Origins of Christianity, pp. 133-135. 

8 H. M. Gwatkin, Early Church History, ii. 136. 

4 "To soften Paganism by a gentler philosophy of life, which ap- 
proached Christianity, is the great speciality of Plutarch ; and he idealised 
both ancient religion and ancient history" (Gregorovius, The Emperor 



Original Text. — First edition, Florence, August 15 17; later editions, 
Schaefer, 1812-18, 1820-21, 1825-30; Sintenis, 1839-46, 1884-88; Doehner, 
1846-55; Bekker, 1855-57. 

Translations. — By Sir Thomas North, from James Amyot's French 
text, 1575, 1579, z 595> x 6o3 (with additional lives); later editions, the 
1676 being the last complete one: edited, with Introduction by George 
Wyndham, Tudor Translations, 1895; by W. H. D. Rouse, " The Temple 
Plutarch," 10 vols., 1898, 1899; Selections, for the illustration of Shake- 
speare's plays, with notes, glossary, etc., by W. W. Skeat, 1875. By 
several hands, with life by Dryden (by whose name the translation is 
commonly called), 1683-6; there were many later editions of which the 
most important is that edited and freely revised by Arthur Hugh Clough, 
1864, 1876. By W. Langhorne, 1770; later editions: edited by F. 
Wrangham, 1826; Bohn, 1853; Chandos Classics, 1884; Camelot Classics 
(Selections), 1886; Lubbock's Hundred Books, No. 39. By A. Stewart 
and G. Long, with Life of Plutarch, Bonn's Standard Library, 1880-82. 


Original Text. — First edition, Venice, 1509; later editions, H. Steph- 
anus, 1572; H. Estienne, 1573; Ruauld, 1624; J. J. Reiske, 1774-1782; 
J. G. Hutten, 1791-1804; D. Wyttenbach, 15 vols, (unfinished), 1795- 
1830; F. Diibner, 1846-1855; Bernardakis, 1888-1896. 

Translations. — By Philemon Holland, 1603 ; revised, 1657. Translation 
by C. W. King and A. R. Shilleto, 1882-1888; re-issued, 1908. Another 
translation by several hands, 1684-1694; re-issued, 1704, 1718. Ed. by 
W. W. Goodwin, with a preface by R. W. Emerson, 1874-1878. Selections: 
Plutarch's Morals by Way of Abstract (published by Nicholson, London), 
1707; Selected Essays from, by way of abstract, 1771. 

The present edition is a reprint of Philemon Holland's, as published in 



Of Moral Virtue ....... 

Of Virtue and Vice ...... 

That Virtue may be Taught and Learned . 
How a Man may discern a Flatterer from a Friend 
Of Meekness, or how a Man should refrain Choler 
Of Curiosity ........ 

Of the Tranquillity and Contentment of Mind . 

Of Unseemly and Naughty Bashfulness 

Of Brotherly Love or Amity .... 

Of Intemperate Speech or Garrulity . 

Of Avarice or Covetousness 

Of the Natural Love or Kindness of Parents to their Children 290 

Of the Plurality of Friends ..... 

Of Fortune ......... 

Of Envy and Hatred . 

How a Man may receive Profit by his Enemies 

How a Man may perceive his own Proceeding and Goin 
Forward in Virtue 

Of Superstition ....... 

Of Exile or Banishment 

That we ought not to take up Money upon Usury . 
Glossary and Index of Names .... 


















" Plutarch's teaching is too full of topical inconsistencies to be formalised 
into a system of Philosophy. But the dominating principle of his teaching, 
the paramount necessity of finding a sanction and an inspiration for 
conduct in what the wisdom of the past had already discovered, is so 
strikingly conspicuous in all his writings that his logical inconsistencies 
appear, and are, unimportant. 

It is this desire of making the wisdom and traditions of the past 
available for ethical usefulness which actuates his attempt to reconcile the 
contradictions, and remove the crudities and inconsistencies, in the three 
sources of religious knowledge — Philosophy, Law, Tradition. This is the 
principle which gives his teaching unity, and not any external circum- 
stances of his life, or his attitude in favour of or in opposition to the tenets 
of any particular school." — Oakesmith, The Religion of Plutarch, 1902. 


" ' The profoundest, the most essential and paramount theme of human 
interest,' says Goethe, ' is the eternal conflict between Atheism and 
Superstition.' Plutarch's tract is a classical sermon on this text, although, 
in his presentment of the subject, the mutual antagonism of the two 
principles receives less emphasis than the hostility which both alike direct 
against the interests of true Religion. He has no sympathy with any 
notion similar to that current since his days, in many religious minds, that 
Superstition is but a mistaken form of Piety, deserving tenderness rather 
than reprehension ; and he maintains that absolute disbelief in God is less 
mischievous in its effects upon human conduct and character than its 
opposite extreme of superstitious devotion." — Oakesmith, The Religion 
of Plutarch, p. 179. 

Bacon speaks similarly in his Essay on Superstition: " It were better 
to have no opinion of God at all than such an opinion as is unworthy of 
Him; " and quotes Plutarch in support of his dictum. 

Cf. Harnack's paper, " Greek and Christian Piety," in the Hibbert 
Journal for October 191 1. 





[Before he entereth into the discourse of virtues and vices, he 
treateth of moral virtue in general: propounding in the first place 
the diversity of opinions of philosophers as touching this point : the 
which he discusseth and examineth: Wherein after that he had 
begun to dispute concerning the composition of the soul, he adjoineth 
his own opinion touching that property which moral virtue hath 
particularly by itself, as also wherein it differeth from contemplative 
philosophy. Then having defined the mediocrity of this virtue, and 
declared the difference between continence and temperance, he 
speaketh of the impression of reason in the soul. And by this 
means addresseth himself against the Stoics, and disputeth con- 
cerning the affections of the soul: proving the inequality therein, 
with such a refutation of the contrary objections, that after he had 
taught how the reasonless part of the soul ought to be managed, 
he discovereth by divers similitudes and reasons, the absurdities of 
the said Stoic philosophers, who, instead of well governing and ruling 
the soul of man, have as much as lieth in them, extinguished and 
abolished the same.] 

My purpose is to treat of that virtue which is both called and 
also reputed moral, and namely wherein it differeth especially 
from virtue contemplative: as having for the subject matter 
thereof the passions of the mind, and for the form, reason: 
Likewise of what nature and substance it is ; as also, how it doth 
subsist and hath the being: to wit, whether that part of the 
soul which is capable of the said virtue be endued and adorned 
with reason as appropriate and peculiar unto it; or, whether 
it borrow it from other parts, and so receiving it, be like unto 
things mingled, and adhering to the better: or rather, for that 
being under the government and rule of another, it be said to 
participate the power and puissance of that which commendeth 
it? For, that virtue also may subsist and have an essential 
being, without any subject matter and mixture at all, I suppose 
it is very evident and apparent. But first and foremost, I hold 


2 Plutarch's Morals 

it very expedient briefly to run through the opinions of other 
philosophers, not so much by way of an historical narration and 
so an end, as that when they be once shewed and laid abroad, 
our opinion may both appear more plainly, and also be held 
more surely. 

Menedemus, then, who was born in the city Eretria, abolished 
all plurality and difference of virtues, supposing that there was 
but one only virtue, and the same known by sundry names: 
For he said ; that it was but one and the same thing which men 
called temperance, fortitude, and justice: like as if one should 
say, A reasonable creature and a man, he meaneth the selfsame 
thing. As for Ariston, the Chian, he was of opinion likewise, 
that in substance there was no more but one virtue, the which 
he termed by the name of health: marry, in some divers 
respects, there were many virtues, and those different one from 
another: as namely, for example, if a man should call our 
eyesight, when it beholdeth white things, leucothea: when it 
seeth black, melanthie : and so likewise in other matters. For 
virtue (quoth he), which concerneth and considereth what we 
ought either to do or not to do, beareth the name of prudence: 
when it ruleth and ordereth our lust or concupiscence, limiting 
out a certain measure and lawful proportion of time unto 
pleasures, it is called temperance: if it intermeddle with the 
commerce, contracts, and negotiation between man and man, 
then it is named justice: like as (to make it more plain) a knife 
is the same still, although it cut, now one-thing and then another: 
and the fire, notwithstanding it worketh upon sundry matters, 
yet it remaineth always of one and the same nature. It seemeth 
also, that Zeno, the Citean, inclined in some sort to this opinion, 
who in defining prudence, saith, that when it doth distribute to 
every man his own, it ought to be called justice ; when it is 
occupied in objects either to be chosen or avoided, then it is 
temperance; and in bearing or suffering, it should be named 

Now, they that defend and maintain this opinion of Zeno, 
affirm that by prudence he understandeth science or know- 
ledge. But Chrysippus, who was of this mind, that each virtue 
had a peculiar quality, and according to it, ought to be defined 
and set down, wist not how (ere he was aware) he brought into 
philosophy, and as Plato saith, raised a swarm of virtues 
never known before, and wherewith the schools had not been 
acquainted. For like as of valiant he derived valour, of just, 
justice, of clement, clemency: so also of gracious he comes in 

Of Moral Virtue 3 

with gratiosity, of good, goodness, of great, greatness, of honest, 
honesty, and all other such-like dexterities, affabilities, and 
courtesies, he termed by the name of virtues, and so pestered 
philosophy with new, strange, and absurd words, more iwis than 
was needful. 

Now these philosophers agree jointly all in this, that they set 
down virtue to be a certain disposition and power of the principal 
part of the soul, acquired by reason : or rather, that it is reason 
itself: and this they suppose as a truth confessed, certain, firm, 
and irrefragable. They hold also that the part of the soul 
subject to passions, sensual, brutish, and unreasonable, differeth 
not from reason by any essential difference, or by nature: but 
they imagine that the very part and substance of the soul which 
they call understanding, reason, and the principal part, being 
wholly turned and changed, as well in sudden passions, as 
alterations by habitude and disposition, becometh either vice or 
virtue, and in itself hath no brutishness at all: but is named 
only unreasonable, according as the motion of the appetite and 
lust is so powerful that it becometh mistress, and by that means 
she is driven and carried forcibly to some dishonest and absurd 
course, contrary to the judgment of reason: For they would 
have that very motion or passion itself to be reason, howbeit 
depraved and naught, as taking her force and strength from 
false and perverse judgment. 

Howbeit, all these (as it may seem) were ignorant of this one 
point; namely, that each one of us (to speak truly) is double and 
compound: And as for one of these duplicities, they never 
thoroughly saw; that only which is of the twain more evident, 
to wit, the mixture or composition of the soul and body they 
acknowledge. And yet, that there is besides a certain duplicity 
in the soul itself, which consisteth of two divers and different 
natures: and namely, that the brutish and reasonless part, in 
manner of another body, is combined and knit into reason by a 
certain natural link of necessity: It seemeth that Pythagoras 
himself was not ignorant : And this we may undoubtedly gather 
and conjecture by his great diligence which he employed in that 
music and harmony which he inferred for the dulcing, taming, 
and appeasing of the soul: as knowing full well that all the 
parts thereof were not obedient and subject to instruction, 
learning,and discipline, nor yet such as might by reason be altered 
and trained from vice to virtue: but required some other kind of 
persuasive power co-operative with it, for to frame the same 
and make it gentle and tractable: for otherwise it would be 

4 Plutarch's Morals 

hardly or never conquered by philosophy, and brought within 
the compass of obedience; so obstinate and rebellious it is. 

And Plato verily was of this opinion (which he professed 
openly, and held as a firm and undoubted truth), that the soul 
of this universal world is not simple, uniform, and uncom- 
pounded, but mixed (as it were) of a certain power of identity x 
and of diversity. For after one sort it is governed and turned 
about continually in an uniform manner by means of one and 
the same order, which is powerful and predominant over all: 
and after another sort again, it is divided into circles, spheres, 
and motions, wandering and contrary in manner to the other: 
whereupon dependeth the beginning of diversity in generation 
of all things in the earth. Semblably (quoth he) the soul of man, 
being a part and portion of that universal soul of the world, 
composed likewise of proportions and numbers answerable to 
the other, is not simple and of one nature or affection, but one 
part thereof is more spiritual, intelligible, and reasonable, which 
ought of right and according to nature have the sovereignty and 
command in man: the other is brutish, sensual, erroneous, and 
disorderly of itself, requiring the direction and guidance of 
another. Now, this is subdivided again into other two parts; 
whereof the one is always called corporal or vegetative; the 
other thymocides, as one would say, irascible and concupiscible; 
which one while doth adhere and stick close to the foresaid gross 
and corporal portion: and otherwhiles to the more pure and 
spiritual part, which is the discourse of reason; unto which, 
according as it doth frame and apply itself, it giveth strength 
and vigour thereto. Now the difference between the one and 
the other may be known principally by the fight and resistance 
that oftentimes is between understanding and reason on the 
one side, and the concupiscence and wrathful part on the other; 
which sheweth that these other faculties are often disobedient 
and repugnant to the best part. 

And verily, Aristotle used these principles and grounds 
especially above all others at the first, as appeareth by his 
writings: but afterwards, he attributed the irascible part unto 
the concupiscible, confounding them both together in one, as if 
ire were a concupiscence or desire of revenge. Howbeit, this he 
always held to the very end, that the brutish and sensual part, 
which is subject unto passions, was wholly and ever distinct from 
the intellectual part, which is the same that reason: not that 
it is fully deprived of reason, as is that corporal and gross part 
1 i.e. the same. 

Of Moral Virtue 5 

of the soul, to wit, whereby we have sense only common with 
beasts, and whereby we are nourished as plants. But whereas, 
this being surd and deaf, and altogether incapable of reason, 
doth after a sort proceed and spring from the flesh, and always 
cleave unto the body: the other sensual part which is so subject 
unto passions, although it be in itself destitute of reason, as a 
thing proper unto it: yet nevertheless apt and fit it is to hear 
and obey the understanding and discoursing part of the mind; 
insomuch as it will turn unto it, surfer itself to be ranged and 
ordered according to the rules and precepts thereof; unless it 
be utterly spoiled and corrupted, either by blind and foolish 
pleasure, or else by a loose and intemperate course of life. As 
for them that make a wonder at this, and do not conceive how 
that part being in some sort brutish and unreasonable, may yet 
be obedient unto reason, they seem unto me as if they did not 
well comprehend the might and power of reason: namely, how 
great it is, and forcible, or how far forth it may pierce and pass 
in command, guidance, and direction; not by way of rough, 
churlish, violent, and irregular courses, but by fair and formal 
means, which are able to do more by gentle inducements and 
persuasions than all the necessary constraints and enforcements 
in the world. That this is so, it appeareth by the breath, spirits, 
sinews, bones, and other parts of the body, which be altogether 
void of reason : howbeit, so soon as there ariseth any motion of 
the will, which shaketh (as it were) the reins of reason never so 
little, all of them keep their order, they agree together, and yield 
obedience. As for example, if the mind and will be disposed 
to run, the feet are quickly stretched out and ready for a course; 
the hands likewise settle to their business, if there be a motion 
of the mind either to throw, or take hold of anything. And 
verily, the poet Homer most excellently expresseth the sym- 
pathy and conformity of this brutish part of the soul unto 
reason in these verses : 

Thus wept the chaste Penelope, 

And drench' d her lovely face 
With dreary tears, which from her eyes 

Ran trickling down apace 
For tender heart, bewailing sore 

The loss of husband dear, 
Ulysses hight, who was in place 

Set by her side full near. 
And he himself in soul, no less, 

Did pity for to see 
His best beloved thus to weep; 

But wise and crafty he 

6 Plutarch's Morals 

Kept in his tears : for why 

His eyes within the lids were set 
As stiff as iron and sturdy horn, 

One drop would they not shed. 

In such obedience to the judgment of reason he had his breath, 
spirits, his blood and his tears. An evident proof hereof is to 
be seen in those whose flesh doth rise upon the first sight of fair 
and beautiful persons: for no sooner doth reason or law forbid 
to come near and touch them, but presently the same falleth, 
lieth down, and is quiet again without any stirring or panting 
at all. A thing very ordinary and most commonly perceived 
in those who be enamoured upon fair women, not knowing at 
first who they were: For so soon as they perceive afterwards 
that they be their own sisters or daughters, their lust presently 
cooleth, by means of reason that toucheth it and interposeth 
itself between : so that the body keepeth all the members thereof 
decently in order, and obedient to the judgment of the said 
reason. Moreover, it falleth out oftentimes that we eat with 
a good stomach and great pleasure certain meats and viands 
before we know what they are; but after we understand and 
perceive once that we have taken either that which was unclean 
or unlawful and forbidden: not only in our judgment and 
understanding we find trouble and offence thereby; but also 
our bodily faculties agreeing to our opinion are dismayed thereat: 
so that anon there ensue vomits, sick qualms, and overturnings 
of the stomach, which disquiet all the whole frame. 

And were it not that I greatly feared to be thought of purpose 
to gather and insert in my discourse such pleasant and youthful 
inducements, I could infer in this place psalteries, lutes, harps, 
pipes, flutes, and other like musical instruments, how they are 
devised by Art for to accord and frame with human passions : 
for notwithstanding they be altogether without life, yet they 
cease not to apply themselves unto us, and the judgment of our 
minds, lamenting, singing, and wantonly disporting together 
with us, resembling both the turbulent passions, and also the 
mild affections and dispositions of those that play upon them. 
And yet verily it is reported also of Zeno himself, that he went 
one day to the theatre for to hear the musician Amaebeus, who 
sung unto the harp: saying unto his scholars, Let us go, sirs, 
and learn what harmony and music the entrails of beasts, their 
sinews and bones : Let us see (I say) what resonance and melody 
bare wood may yield, being disposed by numbers, proportions, 
and order. 

Of Moral Virtue 7 

But leaving these examples, I would gladly demand and ask 
of them if when they see dogs, horses, and birds, which we 
nourish and keep in our houses, brought to that pass by use, 
feeding, and teaching, that they learn to render sensible words, 
to perform certain motions, gestures, and divers feats, both 
pleasant and profitable unto us; and likewise, when they read 
in Homer how Achilles encouraged to battle both horse and 
man; they do marvel still and make doubt, whether that part 
and faculty in us, whereby we are angry, do lust, joy, or grieve, 
be of that nature that it can well obey reason, and be so affected 
and disposed thereby that it may give assent thereto: con- 
sidering especially that it is not seated or lodged without, nor 
separated from us, nor yet framed by anything which is not in 
us: no, nor shapen by forcible means and constraint, to wit, by 
mould, stroke of hammer, or any such thing; but as it is fitted 
and forged by nature, so it keepeth to her, is conversant with 
her, and finally perfected and accomplished by custom and 
continuance. Which is the reason that very properly manners 
be called in Greek by the name rjdos, to give us to understand 
that they are nothing else (to speak plainly and after a gross- 
manner) but a certain quality imprinted by long continuance of 
time in that part of the soul which of itself is unreasonable: 
and is named tJ#os, for that the said reasonless part framed by 
reason taketh this quality or difference (call it whether you will) 
by the means of long time and custom, which they term r\0o<s. 

For reason is not willing to root out quite all passions (which 
were neither possible nor expedient), but only it doth limit them 
within certain bounds, and setteth down a kind of order: and 
thus after a sort causeth moral virtues not to be impassibilities, 
but rather mediocrities and regularities, or moderations of our 
affections: and this it doth by the means of prudence and 
wisdom, which reduceth the power of this sensual and pathetical 
part unto a civil and honest habitude. For these three things 
(they say) are in the soul of man, to wit, a natural puissance or 
faculty, a passion or motion, and also an habitude. Now the 
said faculty or power is the very beginning, and (as a man would 
say) the matter of passions, to wit, the power or aptness to be 
angry, to be ashamed, or to be confident and bold. The passion 
is the actual moving of the said power: namely, anger itself, 
shame, confidence or boldness. The habitude is a settled and 
confirmed strength established in the sensual or unreasonable 
part by continual use and custom: which if the passions be ill 
governed by reason, becometh to be a vice: and contrariwise, 

8 Plutarch's Morals 

a virtue ; in case the same be well ordered and directed thereby. 
Moreover, forasmuch as philosophers do not hold and affirm, that 
every virtue is a mediocrity nor call it moral: to the end, there- 
fore, that we may the better declare and shew the difference, we 
had need to fetch the beginning of this discourse farther off. 

Of all things then that be in the world, some have their essence 
and being of themselves absolutely and simply; others respec- 
tively and in relation to us. Absolutely have their being the 
earth, the heaven, the stars, and the sea; respectively and in 
regard of us, good, evil, profitable, hurtful, pleasant, and 
displeasant. Now, it being so, that reason doth contemplate 
and behold the one sort as well as the other : the former rank of 
those things which are simply and absolutely so, pertain unto 
science and speculation, as their proper objects; the second kind 
of those things which are understood by reference and regard 
unto us, pertain properly unto consultation and action. And as 
the virtue of the former sort is called sapience : so the virtue of 
the other is named prudence. For a difference there is between 
prudence and sapience: in this, that prudence consisteth in a 
certain relation and application of the contemplative faculty of 
the soul unto action, and unto the regiment of the sensual part 
according to reason : by which occasion prudence had need of the 
assistance of fortune : whereas sapience hath nothing to do with 
it, no more than it hath need of consultation, for to attain and 
reach unto the end it aimeth at. For that indeed it concerneth 
Such things as be ever one and always of the same sort. 

And like as the geometrician never consulteth as touching a 
triangle, to wit, whether it hath three angles equal to twain 
that be right or no ? because he knoweth assuredly that it hath 
■(for all consultations are concerning things that vary and alter 
sometime after one sort, and otherwhiles after another, and 
never meddleth with those that be firm, stable, and immutable), 
-even so, the understanding and contemplative faculty of the 
mind, exercising her functions in those first and principal things 
which be permanent, and have evermore the same nature, not 
capable of change or mutation, is sequestered and exempt alto- 
gether from consultation. But prudence, which descendeth to 
things full of variety, error, trouble, and confusion, must of 
necessity eftsoons intermeddle with casualties, and use delibera- 
tion in things more doubtful and uncertain : yea, and after it 
hath consulted to proceed unto action, calling and drawing unto 
it the reasonless part also to be assistant and present, as drawn 
into the judgment of things to be executed. For need those 

Of Moral Virtue 9 

actions have of a certain instinct and motion to set them forward, 
which this moral habitude doth make in each passion, and the 
same instinct requireth likewise the assistance of reason to limit 
it that it may be moderate, to the end that it neither exceed the 
mean, nor come short and be defective: for that it cannot be 
chosen but this brutish and passible part hath motions in it; 
some over-vehement, quick and sudden, others as slow again, 
and more slack than is meet. Which is the reason that our 
actions cannot be good but after one manner: whereas, they 
may be evil after divers sorts: like as a man cannot hit the 
mark but one way: marry, he may miss sundry ways, either by 
overshooting or coming short. 

The part and duty, then, of that active faculty of reason 
according to nature, is to cut off and take away all those exces- 
sive or defective passions, and to reduce them unto a mediocrity. 
For whereas the said instinct or motion, either by infirmity, 
effeminate delicacy, fear, or slothfulness, doth fail and come 
short of duty and the end required, there active reason is present, 
ready to rouse, excite, and stir up the same. Again, on the 
other side, when it runneth on end beyond all measure, after a 
dissolute and disorderly manner, there reason is pressed to 
abridge that which is too much, and to repress and stay the 
same: thus ruling and restraining these pathetical motions, it 
breedeth in man these moral virtues whereof we speak, imprint- 
ing them in that reasonless part of the mind : and no other they 
are than a mean between excess and defect. 

Neither must we think that all virtues do consist in a 
mediocrity : for sapience or wisdom, which stand in no need at all 
of the brutish and unreasonable part, and consist only in the pure 
and sincere intelligence and discourse of understanding, and not 
subject to all passions, is the very height and excellency of 
reason, perfect and absolute of itself: a full and accomplished 
power (I say) wherein is engendered that most divine, heavenly, 
and happy knowledge. But moral virtue, which savoureth 
somewhat of the earth, by reason of the necessities of our body, 
and in which regard it standeth in need of the instrumental 
ministry of the pathetical part, for to work and perform her 
operations, being in no wise the corruption or abolition of the 
sensual and unreasonable part of the soul, but rather the order, 
moderation and embellishment thereof, is the extremity and 
height of excellence, in respect of the faculty and quality: but 
considering the quantity is rather a mediocrity, taking away the 
excess on the one side and the defect on the other. 

io Plutarch's Morals 

But now, forasmuch as this term of mean or mediocrity may 
be understood diverse ways, we are to set down what kind of 
mean this moral virtue is. First and foremost, therefore, 
whereas there is one mean compounded of two simple extremes, 
as a russet or brown colour between white and black: also 
that which containeth and is contained must needs be the 
middest between the thing that doth contain and is contained, 
as for example, the number of 8 is just between 12 and 4, like 
as that which taketh no part at all of either extreme, as namely, 
those things which we call adiaphora, indifferent, and do partake 
neither good nor ill: In none of these significations or senses 
can this virtue be called a mean or mediocrity. For surely it 
may not be in any wise a composition or mixture of two vices 
which be both worse: neither doth it comprehend the less and 
defective : or is comprehended of that which is overmuch above 
decency and excessive, nor yet is it altogether void of passions 
and perturbations, subject to excess and defect, to more and 
less than is meet. But this moral virtue of ours, as it is indeed, 
so also it is called a mean, especially in respect of that mediocrity 
which is observed in the harmony and accord of sounds. For 
like as in music there is a note or sound called the mean, for 
that it is the middes between the base and treble, which in 
Greek be called hypate and nete, and lieth just betwixt the 
height and loudness of the one and the lowness or baseness of 
the other: Even so, moral virtue being a motion and faculty 
about the unreasonable part of the soul, tempereth the remis- 
sion and intention, and in one word, taketh away the excess and 
defect of the passions, reducing each of them to a certain 
mediocrity and moderation that falleth not on any side. 

Now, to begin with fortitude, they say it is the mean between 
cowardice and rash audacity, of which twain the one is a defect, 
the other an excess of the ireful passion. Liberality, between 
niggardise and prodigality; clemency and mildness, between 
senseless indolence and cruelty; justice, the mean of giving 
more or less than due, in contracts and affairs between men: 
like as temperance, a mediocrity between the blockish stupidity 
of the mind moved with no touch of pleasure, and an unbridled 
looseness whereby it is abandoned to all sensuality. 

Wherein especially and most clearly is given us to understand 
and see the difference between the brutish and the reasonable 
part of the soul: and thereby evident it is that wandering 
passions be one thing and reason another: for otherwise we 
should not discern continency from temperance, nor incon- 

Of Moral Virtue 1 1 

tinency from intemperance, in pleasure and lusts, if that faculty 

of the mind whereby we judge, and that whereby we covet and 

desire were all one and the same ; but now, temperance is, when 

reason is able to manage, handle and govern the sensual and 

passionate part (as if it were a beast brought up by hand and 

made tame and gentle, so as it will be ready to obey it in all 

desires and lusts, yea, and willing to receive the bit), whereas 

continency is when reason doth rule and command concupiscence 

as being the stronger, and leadeth it, but not without some 

pains and trouble thereof, for that it is not willing to shew 

obedience, but striveth, flingeth out sidelong, and goeth crossed, 

insomuch as it hath enough to do for to master it with stripes 

of the cudgel, and with hard bits of the bridle to hold it in and 

restrain it, whiles it resisteth all that ever it may, and putteth 

reason to much agony, trouble and travail: which Plato doth 

lively represent unto us by a proper similitude, saying that there 

be two draught beasts which draw the chariot of our souls, 

whereof the worst doth both wince and strive against the other 

fellow in the same yoke, and also troubleth the coachman or 

charioteer, who hath the conduct of them; putting him to his 

shifts that he is fain always to pull in and hold his head hard, 

otherwhiles glad to let him slack and give him the head for fear, 

as Simonides saith: 

Lest that his purple reins full soon 
Out of his hands should slip anon. 

Thus you see what the reason is, why they do not vouchsafe 
continency the name of a perfect virtue in itself, but think it to 
be less than virtue. For there is not in it a certain mediocrity 
arising from the symphony and accord of the worse with the 
better: neither is the excess of passion cut away, nor yet doth 
the appetite yield itself obedient and agreeable to reason: but 
doth trouble and vex, and is troubled and vexed reciprocally, 
being kept down perforce and by constraint; like as in a 
seditious state, both parties at discord, intending mischief and 
war one against another, dwell together within the precinct of 
one wall: insomuch as the soul of a continent person for the 
fight and variance between reason and appetite, may aptly be 
compared, as Sophocles saith, unto a city, 

Which at one time is full of incense sweet, 
Resounding mirth with loud triumphant song, 
And yet the same doth yield in every street 
All signs of grief, with plaints and groans among. 

And hereupon it is also that they hold incontinency to be 

12 Plutarch's Morals 

less than vice: marry, intemperance they will have to be a full 
and complete vice indeed: For that in it as the affection is ill, 
so the reason also is corrupt and depraved: and as by the one 
it is incited and led to the appetite of filthiness and dishonesty, 
so by the other through perverse judgment it is induced to give 
consent unto dishonest lusts, and withal groweth to be senseless 
and hath no feeling at all of sins and faults which it committeth: 
whereas incontinency retaineth still a right and sound judgment 
by means of reason: Howbeit, through the vehement and 
violent passion which is stronger than reason, it is carried away 
against the own judgment. Moreover, in these respects, it 
differeth from intemperance: For that the reason of the incon- 
tinent person is overmatched with passion ; but of the other, it 
doth not so much as enter combat therewith. He, albeit he 
contradict, gainsay, and strive a while, yet in the end yieldeth 
unto lusts and followeth them; but the intemperate man is led 
thereby, and at the first giveth consent and approveth thereof. 
Again, the intemperate person is well content, and taketh joy 
in having sinned : whereas the other is presently grieved thereat. 
Again, he runneth willingly and of his own accord to commit sin 
and villainy ; but the incontinent man, maugre and full against 
his mind, doth abandon honesty. And as there is this distinct 
difference plainly seen in their deeds and actions, so there is no 
less to be observed in their words and speeches. For the sayings 
ordinarily of the intemperate person be these and such-like: 

What mirth in life, what pleasure, what delight, 
Without content in sports of Venus bright ? 
Were those joys past, and I for them unmeet, 
Ring out my knell, bring forth my winding sheet. 

Another saith: 

To eat, to drink, to wench, are principal, 
All pleasures else, I accessories call. 

As if with all his heart and soul he were wholly given to a 
voluptuous life, yea, and overwhelmed therewith. And no less 
than those, he also who hath these words in his mouth: 

Now suffer me to perish by and by, 
It pleaseth, nay, it booteth me to die, 

speaketh as one whose appetite and judgment both were out of 
order and diseased. But the speeches of incontinent persons be 
in another key and far different: for one saith: 

My mind is good and thither doth sway, 
My nature bad, and puts it away. 

Of Moral Virtue 13 


Alas, alas, to see how gods above 

Have sent to men on earth this misery, 
To know their good, and that which they should love, 

Yet wanting grace, to do the contrary! 

And a third: 

Now plucks, now hales, of deadly ire a fire: 

But surely, hold my reason can no more: 
Than anchor flouke stay ship from being split, 

When grounded 'tis on sands near to the shore. 

He nameth not improperly and without good grace the fluke of 
an anchor resting lightly upon the loose sand, to signify the 
feeble hold that reason hath which is not resolute and firmly 
seated, but through the weakness and delicacy of the soul, 
rejecteth and forsaketh judgment: And not much unlike here- 
unto is this comparison also that another maketh in a contrary 
sense : 

Much like a ship which fastened is to land 
With cordage strong, whereof we may be bold, 
The winds do blow, and yet she doth withstand 
And check them all, her cables take such hold. 

He termeth the judgment of reason, when it resisteth a 
dishonest act, by the name of cable and cordage; which not- 
withstanding afterwards may be broken by the violence of some 
passion (as it were) with the continual gales of a blustering wind. 
For to say a very truth, the intemperate person is by his lusts 
and desires carried with full sail to his pleasures; he giveth 
himself thereto, and thither directeth his whole course: but the 
incontinent person tendeth thither also: howbeit (as a man 
would say) crookedly and not directly, as one desirous and 
endeavouring to withdraw himself, and to repel the passion that 
draweth and moveth him to it, yet in the end he also slideth 
and falleth into some foul and dishonest act: Like as Timon, 
by way of biting scoff, traduced and reproved Anaxarchus in 
this wise: 

Here shews itself the dogged force of Anaxarchus fell, 

So stubborn and so permanent, when once he took a pitch: 

And yet as wise as he would seem, a wretch (I heard folk tell) 

He judged was: for that to vice and pleasures overmich 

By nature prone he was: a thing that sages most do shun, 

Which brought him back out of the way, and made him dote anon. 

For neither is a wise sage properly called continent, but tem- 
perate; nor a fool incontinent, but intemperate: because the 
one taketh pleasure and delight in good and honest things; and 

14 Plutarch's Morals 

the other is not offended nor displeased with foul and dishonest 
actions. And therefore incontinency resembleth properly a 
mind (as I may so say) sophistical, which hath some use of 
reason, but the same so weak that it is not able to persevere 
and continue firm in that which it hath once known and judged 
to be right. 

Thus you may see the differences between intemperance and 
incontinency: As for continency and temperance, they differ also 
in certain respects correspondent in some proportion unto those 
on the contrary side. For remorse, sorrow, displeasure, and 
indignation do not as yet abandon and quit continence : whereas 
in the mind of a temperate person all lieth plain and even on 
every side; nothing there but quietness and integrity; in such 
sort, as whosoever seeth the great obeisance and the marvellous 
tranquillity whereby the reasonless part is united and incor- 
porate together with the reasonable, might well say: 

And then anon the winds were down, 

A calm ensued straightway: 
No waves were seen, some power divine 

The sea asleep did lay ; 

namely, when reason had once extinguished the excessive, 
furious, and raging motions of the lusts and desires. And yet 
these affections and passions which of necessity nature hath need 
of, the same hath reason made so agreeable, so obeisant, so 
friendly and co-operative, yea, and ready to second all good 
intentions and purposes ready to be executed, that they neither 
run before it nor come dragging behind ; nor yet behave them- 
selves disorderly, no, nor shew the least disobedience: so as 
each appetite is ruled by reason, and willingly accompanieth it, 

Like as the sucking foal doth go 
And run with dam, both to and fro. 

The which confirmeth the saying of Xenocrates, touching those 
who earnestly study philosophy, and practise it: For they only 
(quoth he) do that willingly which others do perforce and for 
dread of the law, who forbear indeed to satisfy their pleasures, 
and turn back, as if they were scared from them for fear of being 
bitten of some curst mastiff or shrewd cat, regarding nothing 
else but danger that may ensue thereupon. 

Now, that there is in the soul a sense and perceivance of that 
strength, firmity, and resolution to encounter sinful lusts and 
desires, as if it had a power to strive and make head again, it is 
very plain and evident: howbeit, some there be who hold and 
maintain that passion is nothing different from reason: neither 

Of Moral Virtue i 5 

(by their saying) is there in the mind a dissension or sedition 
(as it were) of two divers faculties; but all the trouble that we 
feel is no more but an alteration or change of one and the self- 
same thing, to wit, reason both ways, which we ourselves are not 
able to perceive, for that forsooth it changeth suddenly and with 
such celerity: never considering all the while that the same 
faculty of the mind is framed by nature to concupiscence and 
repentance both: to be angry and to fear: inclined to commit 
some foul and dishonest fact, by the allurement of pleasure, and 
contrariwise restrained from the same for fear of pain. As for 
lust, fear, and all such-like passions, they are no other (say they) 
but perverse opinions and corrupt judgments not arising and 
engendered in any one part of the soul by itself, but spread over 
that which is the chief and principal, to wit, reason and under- 
standing: whereof they be the inclinations, assensions, motions, 
and in one word, certain operations which in the turning of a 
hand be apt to change and pass from one to another: much like 
unto the sudden braids, starts and runnings to and fro of little 
children, which how violent soever they be and vehement, yet 
by reason of their weakness are but slippery, unsteadfast and 

But these assertions and oppositions of theirs are checked and 
refuted by apparent evidence and common sense : For what man 
is he that ever felt in himself a change of his lust and con- 
cupiscence into judgment: and contrariwise an alteration of his 
judgment into lust: neither doth the wanton lover cease to love 
when he doth reason with himself and conclude that such love is 
to be repressed, and that he ought to strive and fight against it: 
neither doth he then give over reasoning and judging, when being 
overcome through weakness, he yieldeth himself prisoner and 
thrall to lust: but like as when by advertisement of reason he doth 
resist in some sort a passion arising, yet the same doth still tempt 
him: so likewise, when he is conquered and overcome therewith, 
by the light of the same reason at that very instant, he seeth 
and knoweth that he sinneth and doth amiss: so that neither 
by those perturbations is reason lost and abolished; nor yet by 
reason is he freed and delivered from them; but whiles he is 
tossed thus to and fro he remaineth a neuter in the midst, or 
rather participating in common of them both. 

As for those who are of opinion that one while the principal 
part of our soul is lust and concupiscence: and then anon that 
it doth resist and stand against the same: are much like unto 
them who imagine and say that the hunter and the wild beast 

1 6 Plutarch's Morals 

be not twain, but one body, changing itself, one while into the 
form of a hunter, and another time taking the shape of a savage 
beast: For both they in a manifest and apparent matter should 
seem to be blind and see nothing: and also these bear witness 
and depose against their own sense, considering that they find 
and feel in themselves really not a mutation or change of one 
only thing, but a sensible strife and fight of two things together 
with them. 

But here they come upon us again and object in this wise. 
How cometh it to pass then (say they) that the power and 
faculty in man which doth deliberate and consult is not likewise 
double (being oftentimes distracted, carried, and drawn to con- 
trary opinions, as it is, namely, touching that which is profitable 
and expedient), but is one still and the same? True, we must 
confess, that divided it seemeth to be: But this comparison doth 
not hold, neither is the event and effect alike: for that part of 
our soul wherein prudence and reason is seated fighteth not with 
itself, but using the help of one and the same faculty, it handleth 
divers arguments, or rather, being but one power of discoursing, 
it is employed in sundry subjects and matters different: which 
is the reason that there is no dolour and grief at one end of those 
reasonings and discourses which are without passion; neither 
are they that consult forced (as it were) to hold one of those 
contrary parts against their mind and judgment; unless per- 
adventure it so fall out that some affection lie close to one part 
or other, as if a man should secretly and underhand lay some- 
what besides in one of the balances or scales against reason for 
to weigh it down. A thing (I assure you) that many times 
falleth out: and then it is not reason that is poised against 
reason; but either ambition, emulation, favour, jealousy, fear, 
or some secret passion, making semblance as if in shew of 
speeches, two reasons were at variance and differed one from 
another. As may appear by these verses in Homer: 

They thought it shame the combat to reject, 
And yet for fear they durst not it accept. 

Likewise in another poet: 

To suffer death is dolorous, 

Though with renown it meet: 
Death to avoid is cowardice: 

But yet our life is sweet. 

And verily in determining of controversies between man and 
man in their contracts and suits of law, these passions coming 

Of Moral Virtue 17 

between are they that make the longest delays, and be the greatest 
enemies of expedition and despatch: like as in the counsels 
of kings and princes, they that speak in favour of one party 
and for to win grace, do not upon any reason of two sentences 
incline to the one, but they accommodate themselves to their 
affection, even against the regard of utility and profit. 

And this is the cause that in those states which be called 
aristocraties, that is to say, governed by a senate or counsel of 
the greatest men, the magistrates who sit in judgment will not 
suffer orators and advocates at the Bar to move affections in 
all their pleas: for in truth, let not the discourse of reason be 
impeached and hindered by some passion, it will of itself tend 
directly to that which is good and just. But in case there do 
arise a passion between, to cross the same, then you shall see 
pleasure and displeasure to raise a combat and dissension, to 
encounter that which by consultation would have been judged 
and determined. For otherwise, how cometh it to pass that in 
philosophical discourses and disputations a man shall never see 
it otherwise, but that without any dolour and grief, some are 
turned and drawn oftentimes by others into their opinions, 
and subscribe thereto willingly? Nay, even Aristotle himself, 
Democritus also and Chrysippus, have been known to retract 
and recant some points which beforetime they held, and that 
without any trouble of mind, without grief and remorse, but 
rather with pleasure and contentment of heart: because in that 
speculative or contemplative part of the soul, which is given to 
knowledge and learning only, there reign no passions to make 
resistance, insomuch as the brutish part being quiet and at 
repose, loveth not curiously to intermeddle in these and such- 
like matters: By which means it happeneth that the reason 
hath no sooner a sight of truth but willingly it inclineth thereto, 
and doth reject untruth and falsity: for that there lieth in it 
and in no other part else, that power and faculty to believe and 
give assent one way, as also to be persuaded for to alter opinion 
and go another way. Whereas, contrariwise, the counsels and 
deliberations of worldly affairs, judgments also, and arbitra- 
ments, being for the most part full of passions, make the way 
somewhat difficult for reason to pass, and put her to much trouble. 
For in these cases the sensual and unreasonable part of the 
soul is ready to stay and stop her course; yea, and to fright 
her from going forward, meeting her either with the object of 
pleasure, or else casting in her way stumbling-blocks of fear, of 
pain, of lusts and desires. 

1 8 Plutarch's Morals 

And verily the deciding and judgment of this disputation 
lieth in the sense, which feeleth as well the one as the other, and 
is touched with them both: For say that the one doth surmount 
and hath the victory, it doth not therefore defeat utterly and 
destroy the other; but drawn it is thereto perforce, and making 
resistance the while. As for example, the wanton and amorous 
person, when he checketh and reproveth himself therefore, useth 
the discourse of reason against the said passion of his; yet so 
as having them both actually subsisting together in the soul: 
much like as if with his hand he repressed and kept down the 
one part, inflamed with a hot fit of passion, and yet feeling 
within himself both parts, and those actually in combat one 
against the other. Contrariwise, in those consultations, dis- 
putes, and inquisitions which are not passionate, and wherein 
these motions of the brutish part have nothing to do, such I 
mean as those be especially of the contemplative part of the soul : 
if they be equal and so continue, there ensueth no determinate 
judgment and resolution: but a doubt remaineth, as if it were 
a certain pause or stay of the understanding, not able to proceed 
farther, but abiding in suspense between two contrary opinions. 
Now if it chance to incline unto one of them, it is because the 
mightier hath overweighed the other and annulled it yet so 
as it is not displeased or discontent, no, nor contesteth obstinately 
afterwards against the received opinion. To be short, and to 
conclude all in one general word; where it seemeth that one 
discourse and reason is contrary unto another; it argueth not 
by and by a conceit of two divers subjects, but one alone in 
sundry apprehensions and imaginations. 

Howbeit, whensoever the brutish and sensual part is in a con- 
flict with reason, and the same such that it can neither vanquish 
nor be vanquished without some sense of grievance; then 
incontinently this battle divideth the soul in twain, so as the 
war is evident and sensible. And not only by this fight a man 
may know how the source and beginning of these passions 
differeth from that fountain of reason: but no less also by the 
consequence that followeth thereupon. For seeing that possible 
it is for a man to love one child that is ingenuous and towardly 
disposed to virtue: as also affect another as well, who is ill given 
and dissolute: considering also that one may use anger unjustly 
against his own children or parents: and another contrariwise 
justly in the defence of children or parents against enemies and 
tyrants. Like as in the one there is perceived a manifest combat 
and resistance of passion against reason; so in the other there 

Of Moral Virtue 19 

may be seen as evident a yielding and obeisance thereof, 
suffering itself to be directed thereby, yea, and willingly running 
and offering her assistance and helping hand. 

To illustrate this by a familiar example, it happeneth other- 
whiles that an honest man espouseth a wife according to the 
laws, with this intention only, to cherish and keep her tenderly, 
yea, and to company with her duly, and according to the laws of 
chastity and honesty: howbeit afterwards in tract of time, and 
by long continuance and conversing together, which hath bred 
in his heart the affection of love, he perceiveth by discourse of 
reason, and findeth in himself that he loveth her more dearly and 
entirely than he purposed at the first. Semblably, young scholars, 
having met with gentle and kind masters at the beginning, follow 
and affect them in a kind of zeal, for the benefit only that they 
reap by them. Howbeit afterwards in process of time they fall 
to love them; and so instead of familiar and daily disciples, 
they become their lovers, and are so called. The same is usually 
to be seen in the behaviour and carriage of men toward good 
magistrates in cities, neighbours also, kinsfolk and allies: For 
they begin acquaintance one with another, after a civil sort 
only, by way of duty or necessity and use: but afterwards, by 
little and little ere they be aware, they grow into an affectionate 
love of them, namely, when reason doth concur, persuading 
and drawing unto it that part of the mind which is the seat of 
passions and affections. As for that poet, whosoever he was, 
that first wrote this sentence : 

Two sorts there be of bashfulness, 

The one we cannot blame, 
The other troubleth many a house, 

And doth decay the same : 

doth he not plainly shew that he hath found in himself, by 
experience oftentimes, that even this affection, by means of 
lingering delay, and putting off from time to time, hath put him 
by the benefit of good opportunities, and hindered the execution 
of many brave affairs? 

Unto these proofs and allegations precedent the Stoics being 
forced to yield, in regard they be so clear and evident: yet for 
to make some way of evasion and escape, they call shame, 
bashfulness; pleasure, joy; and fear, wariness or circum- 
spection. And I assure you, no man could justly find fault 
with these disguisements of odious things with honest terms: 
if so be they would attribute unto these passions the said names 

20 Plutarch's Morals 

when they be ranged under the rule of reason, and give them 
their own hateful terms indeed, when they strive with reason 
and violently make resistance. But when convinced by the 
tears which they shed, by trembling and quaking of their joints, 
yea, by change of colour going and coming; instead of naming 
dolour and fear directly, come in with (I wot not what) pretty 
devised terms of morsures, contractions or conturbations : also 
when they would cloak and extenuate the imperfection of other 
passions, by calling lust a promptitude or forwardness to a thing : 
it seemeth that by a flourish of fine words they devise shifts, 
evasions, and justifications, not philosophical but sophistical. 

And yet verily they themselves again do term those joys, 
those promptitudes of the will, and wary circumspections by 
the name of eupathies, i.e. good affections, and not of apathies, 
that is to say, impassibilities: wherein they use the words 
aright and as they ought. For then is it truly called eupathy, 
i.e., a good affection, when reason doth not utterly abolish the 
passion, but guideth and ordereth the same well in such as be 
discreet and temperate. But what befalleth unto vicious and 
dissolute persons? Surely, when they have set down in their 
judgment and resolution, to love father and mother as tenderly 
as one lover may another, yet they are not able to perform so 
much. Marry, say that they determine to affect a courtesan 
or a flatterer, presently they can find in their hearts to love 
such most dearly. Moreover, if it were so, that passion and 
judgment were both one, it could not otherwise be, so soon as 
one had determined that he ought to love or hate, but that 
presently love or hate would follow thereupon. 

But now it falleth out clean contrary; for that the passion as 
it accordeth well with some judgments and obeyeth, so it 
repugneth with others, and is obstinate and disobedient : where- 
upon it is, that themselves enforced thereto by the truth of the 
thing, do affirm and pronounce that every judgment is not a 
passion, but that only which stirreth up and moveth a strong 
and vehement appetite to a thing: confessing thereby, no doubt, 
that one thing it is in us which judgeth, and another thing that 
suffereth, that is to say, which receiveth passions: like as that 
which moveth, and that which is moved be divers. Certes, 
even Chrysippus himself, defining in many places what is 
patience and what is continency, doth avouch that they be 
habitudes, apt and fit to obey and follow the choice of reason: 
whereby he sheweth evidently that by the force of truth, he 
was driven to confess and avow that there is one thing in us 

Of Moral Virtue 21 

which doth obey and yield, and another which being obeyed, 
is yielded unto, and not obeyed, is resisted. 

Furthermore, as touching the Stoics, who hold that all sins 
and faults be equal, neither will this place nor the time now 
serve to argue against them, whether in other points they 
swerve from the truth : howbeit, thus much by the way I dare be 
bold to say, that in most things they will be found to repugn 
reason, even against apparent and manifest evidence. For 
according to their opinion, every passion or perturbation is a 
fault, and whosoever grieve, fear or lust, do sin: but in those 
passions great difference there is seen, according to more or 
less : for who would ever be so gross as to say that Dolon's fear 
was equal to the fear of Ajax? who, as Homer writeth: 

As he went out of field did turn 

And look behind full oft : 
With knee before knee decently, 

And so retired soft ; 

or compare the sorrow of King Alexander, who would needs 
have killed himself for the death of Clytus, to that of Plato for 
the death of Socrates? For dolours and griefs encrease exceed- 
ingly when they grow upon occasion of that which happeneth 
besides all reason; like as any accident, which falleth out 
beyond our expectation, is more grievous, and breedeth greater 
anguish than that whereof a reason may be rendered, and which 
a man might suspect to follow. As, for example, if he who 
ever expected to see his son advanced to honour and living in 
great reputation among men, should hear say that he were in 
prison, and put to all manner of torture, as Parmeno was adver- 
tised of his son Philotas. And who will ever say that the 
anger of Nicocreon against Anaxarchus was to be compared with 
that of Magas against Philemon, which arose upon the same 
occasion, for that they both were spitefully reviled by them in 
reproachful terms, for Nicocreon caused Anaxarchus to be braid 
in a mortar with iron pestles: whereas Magas commanded the 
executioner to lay a sharp naked sword upon the neck of 
Philemon, and so to let him go without doing him any more 

And therefore it is that Plato named anger the sinews of the 
soul, giving us thereby to understand that they might be 
stretched by bitterness, and let slack by mildness. But the 
Stoics, for to avoid and put back these objections and such-like, 
deny that these stretchings and vehement fits of passions be 
according to judgment, for that it may fail and err many ways: 

22 Plutarch's Morals 

saying, they be certain pricks or stings, contractions, diffusions 
or dilatations, which in proportion and according to reason, 
may be greater or less. Certes, what variety there is in judg- 
ment it is plain and evident. For some there be that deem 
poverty not to be ill : others hold that it is very ill : and there 
are, again, who account it the worst thing in the world ; insomuch 
as to avoid it they could be content to throw themselves head- 
long from high rocks into the sea. Also you shall have those 
who reckon death to be evil, in that only it depriveth us of the 
fruition of many good things; others there be who think and 
say as much, but it is in regard of the eternal torments and 
horrible punishments that be under the ground in hell. As for 
bodily health, some love it no otherwise than a thing agree- 
able to nature and profitable withal; others take it to be the 
sovereign good in the world, as without which they make no 
reckoning of riches, of children, 

Nor yet of crown and regal dignity, 
Which men do match even with divinity. 

Nay, they let not in the end to think and say, that virtue itself 
serveth in no stead, and availeth nought, unless it be accom- 
panied with good health : whereby it appeareth, that as touching 
judgment some err more, some less. 

But my meaning is not now to dispute against this evasion 
of theirs. Thus much only I purpose to take for mine advantage 
out of their own confession, in that themselves do grant, that 
the brutish and sensual part, according to which they say that 
passions be greater and more violent, is different from judgment: 
and howsoever they may seem to contest and cavil about words 
and names, they grant the substance and the thing itself in 
question, joining with those who maintain that the reasonless 
part of the soul which entertaineth passions is altogether different 
from that which is able to discourse, reason, and judge. And verily 
Chrysippus, in those books which he entituled Of Anomology, 
after he had written and taught that anger is blind, and many 
times will not permit a man to see those things which be plain 
and apparent, and as often casteth a dark mist over that which 
he hath already perfectly learned and known; proceedeth 
forward a little further: For (quoth he) the passions which arise 
drive out and chase forth all discourse of reason, and such things 
as were judged and determined otherwise against them, urging 
it still by force unto contrary actions. Then he useth the 

Of Moral Virtue 23 

testimony of Menander the poet, who in one place writeth thus, 
by way of exclamation : 

Woe worth the time, wretch that I am, 

How was my mind distraught 
In body mine? where were my wits? 

Some folly (sure) me caught, 
What time I fell to this. For why? 

Thereof I made no choice. 
Far better things they were, iwis 

Which had my former voice. 

The same Chrysippus also going on still: It being so (quoth 
he) that a reasonable creature is by nature born and given to 
use reason in all things, and to be governed thereby: yet not- 
withstanding we reject and cast it behind us, being overruled 
by another more violent motion that carrieth us away. In 
which words, what doth he else but confess even that which 
happeneth upon the dissension between affection and reason? 

For it were a mere ridiculous mockery indeed, as Plato saith, 
to affirm that a man were better and worse than himself: or 
that he were able now to master himself, and anon ready to be 
mastered by himself, and how were it possible that the same 
man should be better and worse than himself, and at once both 
master and servant, unless every one were naturally in some 
sort double, and had in him somewhat better and somewhat 
worse ? 

And verily by that means, he that hath the worse part 
obedient to the better, hath power over himself, yea, and is 
better than himself: whereas he that suffereth the brutish and 
unreasonable part of his soul to command and go before, so as 
the better and more noble part doth follow, and is serviceable 
unto it, he no doubt is worse than himself: he is (I say) incon- 
tinent or rather impotent, and hath no power over himself, but 
disposed contrary to nature. For according to the course and 
ordinance of nature, meet and fit it is that reason, being divine 
and heavenly, should command and rule that which is sensual 
and void of reason : which as it doth arise and spring out of the 
very body, so it resembleth it, as participating the properties 
and passions thereof, yea, and naturally is full of them, as being 
deeply concorporate and throughly mixed therewith: As it 
may appear by all the motions which it hath, tending to no 
other things but those that be material and corporal, as receiving 
their augmentations and diminutions from thence (or to say 
more properly), being stretched out and let slack more or less, 
according to the mutations of the body. Which is the cause 

24 Plutarch's Morals 

that young persons are quick, prompt, and audacious; rash also, 
for that they be full of blood, and the same hot, their lusts and 
appetites are likewise fiery, violent and furious: whereas con- 
trariwise in old folk because the source of concupiscence seated 
about the liver is after a sort quenched, yea, and become weak 
and feeble: reason is more vigorous and predominant in them: 
as much as the sensual and passionate part doth languish and 
decay together with the body. 

And verily this is that which doth frame and dispose the 
nature of wild beasts to divers passions: For it is not long of 
any opinions good or bad which arise in them, that some of 
them are strong, venturous and fearless, yea, and ready to 
withstand any perils presented before them; others again be so 
surprised with fear and fright that they dare not stir or do 
anything: but the force and power which lieth in the blood, in 
the spirits and in the whole body, is that which causeth this 
diversity of passions, by reason that the passible part, growing 
out of the flesh as from a root, doth bud forth and bring with it 
a quality and proneness semblable. But in man that there is a 
sympathy and fellow moving of the body, together with the 
motions of the passions, may be proved by the pale colour, the 
red flushing of the face, the trembling of the joints, and panting 
and leaping of the heart in fear and anger: And again on the 
contrary side by the dilatations of the arteries, heart and colour, 
in hope and expectation of some pleasures. 

But when as the divine spirit and understanding of man doth 
move of itself alone without any passion, then the body is at 
repose and remaineth quiet, not communicating nor participat- 
ing any whit with the operation of the mind and intendment, 
no more than it being disposed to study upon any mathematical 
proposition or other science speculative, it calleth for the help 
and assistance of the unreasonable part : By which it is manifest, 
that there be two distinct parts in us, different in faculty and 
power one from another. In sum, Go through the universal 
world, all things (as they themselves affirm, and evident ex- 
perience doth convince) are governed and ordered, some by a 
certain habitude; others by nature: some by a sensual and 
unreasonable soul; others by that which hath reason and 
understanding. Of all which man hath his part at once, yea, 
and was born naturally with these differences above said. For, 
contained he is by an habitude : nourished by nature : reason 
and understanding he useth: he hath his portion likewise of 
that which is unreasonable and inbred, there is together with 

Of Moral Virtue 25 

him the source and primitive cause of passions, as a thing 
necessary for him, neither doth it enter into him from without: 
in which regard it ought not to be extirped utterly, but hath 
need only of ordering and government: whereupon reason 
dealeth not after the Thracian manner, nor like King Lycurgus, 
who commanded all vines without exception to be cut down, 
because wine caused drunkenness: it rooteth not out (I say) 
all affections indifferently one with another, the profitable as 
well as the hurtful: but (like unto the good gods Phytalmius 
and Homerides, who teach us to order plants that they may 
fructify, and to make them gentle which were savage) to cut 
away that which groweth wild and rank, to save all the rest 
and so to order and manage the same that it may serve for 
good use. For neither do they shed and spill their wine upon 
the floor who are afraid to be drunk, but delay the same with 
water: nor those who fear the violence of a passion do take it 
quite away, but rather temper and qualify the same: like as 
folk use to break horses and oxen from their flinging out with 
their heels, their stiffness and curstness of the head and stubborn- 
ness in receiving the bridle or the yoke, but do not restrain them 
of other motions in going about their work and doing their 
deed. And even so verily, reason maketh good use of these 
passions, when they be well tamed and brought (as it were) to 
hand : without over weakening or rooting out clean that part of 
the soul which is made for to second reason, and do it good 
service: For as Pindarus saith: 

The horse doth serve in chariot at the thill, 
The ox at plough doth labour hard in field. 
Who list in chase the wild boar for to kill, 
The hardy hound he must provide with skill. 

And I assure you, the entertainment of these passions and their 
breed serve in far better stead when they do assist reason and 
give an edge (as it were) and vigour unto virtues, than the 
beasts above named in their kind. Thus moderate ire doth 
second valour and fortitude: hatred of wicked persons helpeth 
the execution of justice: and indignation is just and due unto 
those who without any merit or desert enjoy the felicity of this 
life: who also for that their heart is puffed up with foolish 
arrogancy, and enflamed with disdainful pride and insolence in 
regard of their prosperity, have need to be taken down and 
cooled. Neither is a man able by any means (would he never 
so fain) to separate from true friendship, natural indulgence, and 
kind affection: nor from humanity, commiseration and pity; 

26 Plutarch's Morals 

nor yet from perfect benevolence and goodwill, the fellowship 
in joy and sorrow. 

Now if it be true (as it is indeed) that they do grossly err 
who would abolish all love, because of foolish and wanton love: 
surely they do amiss who, for covetousness sake and greediness 
of money, do blame and condemn quite all other appetites and 
desires. They do (I say) as much as those who would forbid 
running altogether, because a man may stumble and catch a fall 
as he runneth : or debar shooting for that we may overshoot and 
miss the mark : or to condemn hearing of music, because a dis- 
cord or jar is offensive to the ear. For like as in sounds, music 
maketh an accord and harmony, not by taking away the loud 
and base notes : And in our bodies physic procureth health, not 
by destroying heat and cold, but by a certain temperature and 
mixture of them both in good proportion : Even so it fareth in the 
soul of man, wherein reason hath the predominance and victory : 
namely, when by the power thereof, the passions, perturbations 
and motions are reduced into a kind of moderation and medi- 
ocrity. For no doubt excessive sorrow and heaviness, immeasur- 
able joy and gladness in the soul may be aptly compared to a 
swelling and inflammation in the body, but neither joy nor 
sorrow simply in itself. And therefore Homer in this wise 
sentence of his : 

A man of worth doth never colour change, 
Excessive fear in him is very strange, 

doth not abolish fear altogether, but the extremity thereof; to 
the end that a man should not think that either valour is 
desperate folly, or confidence audacious temerity. And there- 
fore in pleasures and delights, we ought likewise to cut off 
immoderate lust: as also in taking punishment, extreme hatred 
of malefactors. He that can do so shall be reputed in the one 
not indolent, but temperate, and in the other not bitter and 
cruel, but just and righteous. 

Whereas let passions be rid clean away (if that were possible 
to be done), our reason will be found in many things more dull 
and idle: like as the pilot and master of a ship hath little to 
do if the wind be laid and no gale at all stirring. And verily 
(as it should seem) wise law-makers, seeing this well enough, 
have with great policy given occasion in cities and common- 
wealths of ambition and emulation among citizens one with 
another: and in the field against enemies devised to excite the 
courage of soldiers, and to whet their ire and manhood by sound 
of trumpets, fifes, drums, and other instruments. For not only 

Of Moral Virtue 27 

in poetry (as Plato saith very well) he that is inspired and (as 
it were) ravished with the divine instinct of the Muses, will 
make a ridiculous fool of him who otherwise is an excellent poet, 
and his craftsmaster as having learned the exquisite knowledge 
of the art; but also in battles, the heat of courage set on fire 
with a certain divine inspiration is invincible and cannot be 
withstood. This is that martial fury which (as Homer saith) 
the gods do infuse or inspire rather into warlike men: 

And again 

Thus having said he did inspire 

The prince's heart with might and ire. 

One god or other surely doth him assist, 
Else faring thus, he never could persist. 

As if to the discourse of reason they had adjoined passion as 
a prick to incite, and a chariot to set it forward. Certes, even 
these very Stoics with whom now we argue, and who seem to 
reject all passions, we may see oftentimes how they stir up 
young men with praises, and as often rebuke them with sharp 
admonitions and severe reprehensions. Whereof there must 
needs ensue of the one part pleasure, and of the other part dis- 
pleasure. For surely checks and fault-findings strike a certain 
repentance and shame: of which two, the former is comprised 
under sorrow, and the latter under fear: and these be the means 
that they use principally to chastise and correct withal. Which 
was the reason that Diogenes upon a time, when he heard Plato 
so highly praised and extolled: And what great and worthy 
matter (quoth he) find you in that man, who having been a 
philosopher so long and taught the precepts thereof, hath not in 
all this time grieved and wounded the heart of any one person ? 
For surely the mathematical sciences a man cannot so properly 
call the ears or handles of philosophy (to use the words of 
Xenocrates) as he may affirm that these affections of young men, 
to wit, bashfulness, desire, repentance, pleasure and pain, are 
their handles, whereof reason and law together taking hold by 
a discreet, apt and wholesome touch, bring a young man speedily 
and effectually into the right way. And therefore the Lace- 
daemonian schoolmaster and governor of children said very well, 
when he professed that he would bring to pass that the child 
whom he took into his tuition should joy in honest things, and 
grieve in those that were foul and dishonest. Than which there 
cannot possibly be named a more worthy or commendable end 
of the liberal education and bringing up of a young youth well 



[In this little treatise adjoined aptly unto the former, the author 
proveth that outward and corruptible things be not they that set 
the soul in repose, but reason well ruled and governed : And after 
that he hath depainted the miserable estate of wicked and sinful 
persons, troubled and tormented with their passions both night and 
day, he proveth by proper and apt similitudes that philosophy, 
together with the love of virtue, bringeth true contentment and 
happiness indeed unto a man.] 

It seemeth, and commonly it is thought, that they be the 
garments which do heat a man; and yet of themselves they 
neither do heat nor bring any heat with them: for take any of 
them apart by itself, you shall find it cold ; which is the reason 
that men, being very hot and in a fit of fever, love often to 
change their clothes, for to cool and refresh their bodies. But 
the truth is this, Look what heat a man doth yield from himself, 
the clothes or garments that cover the body do keep in the 
same, and unite close together: and being thus included and 
held in, suffer it not to evaporate, breathe out, and vanish away. 
The same error in the state of this life hath deceived many 
men, who imagine that if they may dwell in stately and gorgeous 
great houses, be attended upon with a number of servants, 
retain a sort of slaves, and can gather together huge sums of 
gold and silver, then they shall live in joy and pleasure: whereas 
in very sooth, the sweet and joyful life proceedeth not from 
anything without. But contrariwise, when a man hath those 
goodly things about him, it is himself that addeth a pleasure 
and grace unto them, even from his own nature and civil 
behaviour, composed by moral virtue within him, which is the 
very fountain and lively spring of all good contentment. 

For if the fire do always burn out light, 
More stately is the house, and faire in sight. 

Semblably, riches are more acceptable, glory hath the better 
and more shining lustre, yea, and authority carrieth the greater 
grace, if the inward joy of the soul be joined therewith: For 


Of Virtue and Vice 29 

surely men do endure poverty, exile, and banishment out of their 
own countries, yea, and bear the burden of old age willingly 
and with more ease, according as their manners be mild, and 
the mind disposed to meekness. And like as sweet odours and 
aromatical perfumes give a pleasant smell unto threadbare and 
ragged clothes; but contrariwise, the rich robe of Anchyses 
yielded from under it stinking matter and corrupt blood ; which, 
as the poet saith: 

Ran down by drops upon his cloak 
Of silk so fine, and it did soak. 

Even so with virtue, any sort of life and all manner of living 
is pleasant and void of sorrow: whereas contrariwise, vice 
causeth those things which otherwise seemed great, honourable 
and magnificent, to be odious, lothsome and unwelcome to those 
that have them, if (I say) it be mingled therewith, according to 
the testimony of these vulgar verses: 

This man, who whiles he walks abroad in street 

Or market-place, is ever happy thought : 

No sooner sets within his own house feet, 

Thrice wretched but he is, and not for nought. 

His wife (as master) hath of all the power, 

She bids, commands, she chides and fights each hour. 

And yet one may with ease be rid and divorced from such a 
curst and shrewd wife, if he be a man indeed, and not a bond- 
slave; but for thine own vice, no means will serve to exempt 
thee from it. It is not enough to command it to be gone, by 
sending a little script or bill of divorcement, and to think thereby 
to be delivered from troubles, and so to live alone in quiet and 
repose. For it cleaveth close within the ribs, it sticketh fast in 
the very bowels, it dwelleth there both night and day: 

It burneth thee, yet firebrand none is seen, 
And hasteneth age apace before thou ween. 

A troublesome companion it is upon the way, by reason of 
arrogancy and presumption: a costly and sumptuous guest at 
the table for gluttony and gormandise: an unpleasant and 
cumbersome bedfellow in the night, in regard of thoughts, cares 
and jealousies which break the sleep, or trouble the same with 
fantasies. For whiles men lie asleep, the body is at rest and 
repose; but the mind all the while is disquieted and affrighted 
with fearful dreams and tumultuous visions, by reason of 
superstitious fear of the gods : 

If that I sleep, when sorrows me surprise, 
Then fearful dreams me kill before I rise, 

30 Plutarch's Morals 

saith one. And even so do other vices serve men : to wit, envy, 
fear, wrath, wanton love, and unbridled lust. For in the day- 
time, vice looking out, and composing itself somewhat unto 
others abroad, is somewhat ashamed of herself, and covereth 
her passions; she giveth not herself wholly to her motions and 
perturbations, but many times doth strive again and make 
resistance: but in sleep, being without the danger of laws and 
the opinion of the world, being far removed (as it were) from 
fear and shame : then it setteth all lusts awork, then it quickeneth 
and raiseth up all lewdness, and then it displayeth all lascivious 
wantonness. It tempteth (as Plato saith) a man to have carnal 
dealing with his own mother, and to eat of forbidden and unlaw- 
ful meats: there is no villany that it forbeareth; executing (so 
far forth as it is able) all abomination, and hath the fruition 
thereof, if it be but by illusions and fanatical dreams, which end 
not in any pleasure, nor accomplishment of concupiscence, but 
are powerful only to excite, stir, and provoke still the fits of 
secret passions and maladies of a corrupt heart. 

Wherein lieth, then, the pleasure and delight of sin, if it be so, 
that in no place nor at any time it be void of pensiveness, care 
and grief? if it never have contentment, but always in molesta- 
tion and trouble, without repose? As for carnal delights and 
fleshly pleasures, the good complexion and sound constitution 
of an healthful body giveth thereto means, place, opportunity 
and breeding. But in the soul it is not possible that there 
should be engendered any mirth, joy and contentment, unless 
the first foundation be laid in peace of conscience, and tranquillity 
of spirit, void of fear, and enjoying a settled calm in all assurance 
and confidence, without any shew of tempest toward. For 
otherwise, suppose that some hope do smile upon a man; or 
say, that delight tickle a little; the same anon is troubled, and 
all the sport is marred by some careful cogitation breaking forth : 
like as the object and concurrence of one rock troubleth and 
overthroweth all, though the water and weather both be never 
so calm. 

Now gather gold and spare not by heaps, rake and scrape 
together masses of silver, build fair, gallant and stately walking- 
places, replenish all thy house with slaves, and a whole city with 
debtors: unless withal thou do allay the passions of thy mind; 
unless thou stay and appease thy insatiable lust and desire; 
unless thou free and deliver thyself from all fear and carking cares : 
thou dost as much as strain wine, or make ipocras for one that 
is sick of a fever, give honey to a choleric person diseased with 

Of Virtue and Vice 3 1 

the raging motion of choler, offer meats and viands to those that 
be sick of the stomachical flux, continual lask, ulceration of the 
guts and bloody flux, who neither take pleasure therein, nor are 
the better but the worse rather a great deal for them. See you 
not how sick folks are offended, and their stomachs rise at 
the most fine, costly, and daintiest meats that be offered unto 
them? how they spit them forth again, and will none, though 
they be forced upon them? And yet afterwards, when the 
body is reduced again into good temperature : when pure spirits 
and good fresh blood is engendered, and when the natural heat 
is restored and become familiar and kind: then they rise up 
on their feet to their meat, then their stomachs serve to eat full 
savourly of coarse bread with cheese or cresses, and therein they 
take great pleasure and contentment: The like disposition in 
the mind doth reason work. Then and never before shalt thou be 
pleased and at peace with thyself, when thou hast once learned 
what is good and honest indeed: In poverty thou shalt live 
deliciously like a king: or in a private and quiet state sequestered 
from civil and public affairs, thou shalt live as well as they who 
have the conduct of great armies, and govern the commonweal. 
When thou hast studied philosophy and profited therein, thou 
shalt never lead a life in discontentment, but shalt learn how to 
away with any estate and course of life, and therein find no 
small joy and heart's ease. Thy riches thou wilt rejoice in, 
because thou shalt have better means to do good unto all men: 
In poverty likewise thou wilt take joy in regard thou shalt have 
fewer cares to trouble thee : Glory will turn to thy solace, when 
thou shalt see thyself so honoured: and thy low estate and 
obscure condition will be no less comfort, for that thou shalt 
be safe and secured from envy. 



[Plutarch, refuting here the error of those who axe of opinion, that 
by good and diligent instruction a man cannot become the better, 
recommendeth sufficiently the study of virtue. And to prove this 
assertion of his, he sheweth that the apprentissage of that which is of 
small consequence in this world, witnesseth enough that a man 
ought to be trained from day to day to the knowledge of things that 
are beseeming and worthy his person: Afterwards, he declareth 
that as much travel should be employed to make him comprehend 
such things as be far distant from the capacity and excellency of 
his spirit: In which discourse he taxeth covertly those vain and 
giddy heads, who (as they say) run after their own shadow, whereas 
they should stay and rest upon that which is firm and permanent.] 

We dispute of virtue, and put in question, whether prudence, 
justice, loyalty and honesty may be taught or no? And do 
we admire then the works of orators, sailors and shipmasters, 
architects, husbandmen, and an infinite number of other such 
which be extant? Whereas of good men we have nothing but 
their bare and simple names, as if they were hippo-centaurs, 
giants, or Cyclopes: and marvel we that of virtuous actions 
which be entire, perfect, and unblameable, none can be found: 
nor yet any manners so composed according to duty, but that 
they be tainted with some passions and vicious perturbations? 
yea, and if it happen that nature of herself bring forth some 
good and honest actions, the same straightways are darkened, 
corrupted and in a manner marred, by certain strange mixtures 
of contrary matters that creep into them, like as when among 
good corn there grow up weeds and wild bushes that choke the 
same; or when some kind and gentle fruit is clean altered by 
savage nourishment. 

Men learn to sing, to dance, to read and write, to till the 
ground, and to ride horses, they learn likewise to shoe them- 
selves, to do on their apparel decently; they are taught to wait 
at cup and trencher, to give drink at the table, to season and 
dress meat: and none of all this can they skill to perform and 


Virtue May Be Taught and Learned 33 

do handsomely, if they be not trained thereto: and yet shall 

that, for which these and such-like qualities they learn, to wit, 

good life and honest conversation, be reckoned a mere casual 

thing, coming by chance and fortune, and which can neither be 

taught nor learned? Oh, good sirs, what a thing is this? In 

saying that virtue cannot be taught, we deny withal that it is, 

or hath any being. For if it be true that the learning of it is 

the generation and breeding thereof, certes he that hindereth 

the one disannulleth the other: and in denying that it may be 

taught, we grant that no such thing there is at all: And yet, 

as Plato saith, lor the neck of a lute not made in proportion to 

the rest of the body, there was never known one brother go to 

war with another, nor a friend to quarrel with his friend, nor 

yet two neighbour cities to fall out and maintain deadly feud, 

to the interchangeable working and suffering of those miseries 

and calamities which follow open war. Neither can any man 

come forth and say, that by occasion of an accent (as, for 

example, whether the word telchines should be pronounced with 

the accent over the second syllable or no) there arose sedition 

and dissension in any city; or debate in a house between man 

and wife about the warp and woof of any web: Howbeit never 

man yet would take in hand to wear a piece of cloth, nor handle 

a book, nor play upon the lute or harp, unless he had learned 

before ; for albeit he were not like to sustain any great loss and 

notable damage thereby, yet he would fear to be mocked and 

laughed to scorn for his labour, in which case, as Heraclitus 

saith, it were better for a man to conceal his own ignorance: 

and may such an one think, then, that he could order a house 

well, rule a wife, and behave himself as it becometh in marriage, 

bear magistracy, or govern a commonweal as he ought, being 

never bound and brought up to it? Diogenes, espying upon a 

time a boy eating greedily and unmannerly, gave his master or 

tutor a good cuff on the ear: and good reason he had so to do, 

as imputing the fault rather to him, who had not taught, than 

to the boy, who had not learned better manners. And is it so 

indeed ? ought they of necessity, who would be mannerly at the 

table, both in putting hand to a dish of meat, and taking the 

cup with a good grace, or as Aristophanes saith, 

At board not feeding greedily, 
Nor laughing much, indecently, 
Nor crossing feet full wantonly, 

to be taught even from their infancy. And is it possible that 
the same should know how to behave themselves in wedlock, 


34 Plutarch's Morals 

how to manage the affairs of state, how to converse among men, 
how to bear office without touch and blame, unless they have 
learned first how to carry themselves one toward another? 

Aristippus answered upon a time, when one said unto him, 
And are you, sir, everywhere? I should (quoth he, laughing 
merrily) cast away the fare for ferriage, which I pay unto the 
mariner, if I were everywhere. And why might not a man say 
likewise, If children be not the better for their teaching, the 
salary is lost which men bestow upon their masters and teachers. 
But we see that they taking them into their governance presently 
from their nurses, like as they did form their limbs and joints 
featly with their hands, do prepare and frame their manners 
accordingly, and set them in the right way to virtue. And to 
this purpose answered very wisely a Laconian schoolmaster to 
one who demanded of him, what good he did to the child of 
whom he had the charge ? Marry (quoth he), I make him to 
take joy and pleasure in those things that be honest. And to 
say a truth, these teachers and governors instruct children to 
hold up their heads straight as they go in the street, and not to 
bear it forward: also, not to dip into sauce but with one finger: 
not to take bread or fish but with twain : to rub or scratch after 
this or that manner: and thus and thus to truss and hold up 
their clothes. 

What shall we say then to him who would make us believe 
that the art of physic professeth to scour the morphew, or heal 
a whit-flaw: but not to cure a pleurisy, fever, or the phrensy? 
And what differeth he from them who hold that there be schools 
and rules to teach petties and little children how to be mannerly, 
and demean themselves in small matters, but as for great, 
important and absolute things, it must be nothing else but use 
and custom, or else mere chance and fortune that doth effect 
them ? For like as he were ridiculous, and worthy to be laughed 
at, who should say that no man ought to lay hand upon the 
oar for to row but he that hath been prentice to it; but sit at 
the stern and guide the helm he may who was never taught it: 
even so, he who maintaineth that in some inferior arts there is 
required apprentissage, but for the attaining of virtue none at 
all, deserveth likewise to be mocked. 

And verily, he should do contrary unto the Scythians: For 
they, as Herodotus writeth, use to put out the eyes of their 
slaves only to the end that being blind they might turn round 
about with their milk, and so stir and shake it. But he forsooth 
putteth the eye of reason into these base and inferior arts, which 

Virtue May Be Taught and Learned 35 

are no better than servants waiting upon others; but plucketh 
it from virtue. Iphicrates answered contrariwise, being de- 
manded of Callias, the son of Chabrias, by way of contempt and 
derision, in this wise, What are you, sir? An archer? A tar- 
getiere? A man at arms? or a light-armed soldier? I am none 
(quoth he) of all these, but rather one of those who commandeth 
them all. Well, ridiculous then is he, and very absurd, who 
would say there were an art to be taught of drawing a bow 
and shooting, of fighting close at hand being armed at all pieces, 
of discharging bullets with a sling, or of sitting and riding an 
horse ; but forsooth to lead and conduct an army there was none 
at all: as who would say that feat were a thing not learned, 
but coming by chance, I know not how. And yet I must needs 
say, more sottish and foolish were he who should hold and 
affirm that prudence only could not be taught, without which 
no other arts and sciences be worth ought, or avail any whit. 
That this is true, and that she is alone the guide which leadeth 
and guideth all other sciences, arts, and virtues, giving them 
even- one their due place and honour, and making them profit- 
able to mankind, a man may know by this, if there were nothing 
else, that there would be no grace at a feast, though the meat 
were never so well dressed and served up by skilful cooks, 
though there were proper esquires or shewers to set the dishes 
upon the board, carvers, tasters, skinkers, and other servitors 
and waiters enough, unless there be some good order observed 
among the said ministers, to place and dispose everything as it 



[The traveller hath great occasion and cause to rejoice, if in his 
journey he go with a good companion, who by his pleasant and 
profitable discourses may make him forget the tedious difficulty of 
the way: even so in this life, happy is the man who can find and 
meet with those to bear him company, by whom he may both easily 
pass through the occurrent dangers that are presented unto him, 
and also advance forward cheerfully unto virtue. In which regard 
our author, Plutarch, having discoursed as touching the nouriture, 
education, and instruction of youth, as also of vice and virtue in 
general, by good order and in great reason, sheweth in this treatise 
what sort of people we ought carefully to avoid, and with whom 
to join and be acquainted. And as he was a man well experienced 
and practised in the affairs of this world, he affirmeth and proveth 
by very sound and firm reasons, that there is nothing whereof we 
are to be more wary and heedful than false friendship, which he 
calleth flattery. Moreover, this being a matter of so great im- 
portance, as every wise man may well think and perceive, he 
draweth out this present discourse in length: and for that his pur- 
pose is to instruct us in those means whereby we may be able to 
distinguish between a flatterer and a true friend, he sheweth in the 
first place, that the only principal remedy to stop up the entry 
against all flatterers is to know ourselves well : for otherwise we shall 
have such array and ornaments hanged upon us, that we shall not 
easily perceive and discern who we are. And contrariwise, it 
happeneth oftentimes that we esteem them to be our perfect friends, 
so skilful are they in counterfeiting; and withal, when they find us 
disposed to entertain such company, our own indiscretion depriveth 
us of that true insight and view which our soul ought to have in 
discerning a false friend from a true. Being willing, therefore, to 
aid and help us in this point, he describeth a crafty and wily flatterer, 
he discovereth his cunning casts, and depainteth him in his colours, 
shewing the very draught and lineaments which may direct us to 
the knowledge of him, to wit, that he doth conform and frame 
himself to the humour and nature of those whose company he 
haunteth; how he is unconstant and mutable, changing and turning 
into many and sundry fashions without any right and sincere 
affection, applying himself all the while to everything else but virtue, 
willing to be reputed always more lewd and vicious than those whom 
he flattereth: without regard of doing them good any way, or 
seeking their profit, he only aimeth at this, to please them and follow 


To Discern a Flatterer from a Friend 37 

their vein in all things by custom and use, bringing him that will 
give ear unto his words, to this pass, that he shall think vice to 
be virtue: working covertly and underhand for to deceive more 
cleanly, transforming virtue into vice, and making it nothing strange 
and coy to blame himself, for to do the more mischief afterwards 
to another: then he flattereth most when he maketh no semblance 
or shew at all that he mindeth any such thing, and exalteth up to 
the sky those that be most vicious and worst of all others, so they 
will give him entertainment. Likewise, for that flatterers shew 
themselves otherwhiles very forward and bold to speak their minds 
and to find fault, which is one of the best and surest marks of true 
friendship, he treateth consequently of this liberty and freedom of 
speech, and how a man may know whether there be any flattery 
therein or no. He declareth, therefore, how flatterers use this 
frank reprehension in vain and frivolous things, and never in those 
sins and gross faults which are indeed blameworthy: so that this 
manner of reprehension is a kind of soothing them up and lulling 
men asleep in their notorious vices: or else they charge them with 
faults clean contrary. 

Now after he hath shewed how a man should take heed and 
beware of them, he discourseth of those services which may make 
flatterers, and wherein the same differ from the offices and duties of 
friends, and in pursuing and prosecuting this antithesis, he proveth 
that a flatterer is prest and ready to do us pleasure in shameful 
matters, whereas a friend sheweth his good will in those that be 
honest: also that a flatterer is envious, and so is not a friend. And 
for that our nature is proud and blind withal, having need of good 
friends to guide and direct it, he describeth with what manner of 
eye and ear we ought to see and hear those that procure our good, 
albeit they may seem to carry with them a kind of severity. Mean- 
while he exhorteth friends so to temper and qualify their liberty 
in reprehension that all impudency and importunate rigour be far 
from it. But forasmuch as this is (as it were) the principal thing in 
amity, he sheweth that first we must cut away self-love in all 
our reprehensions; and secondly all injurious, bitter and biting 
speeches: then he adjoineth, moreover, in what seasons, and upon 
what occurrences, a man ought to reprove and say his mind frankly: 
and with what dexterity he is to proceed : that is to say, that 
sometimes, yea, and more often, he ought to rebuke his friend apart, 
or under the person of another: wherein he is to look unto this, 
that he eschew all vainglory, and season his reprehensions with 
some praise among, to make them more acceptable and better taken. 
Consequently, he teacheth us how we must receive the advertise- 
ments, admonitions, and reprehensions of a true friend : and 
returning to the very point, indeed, of amity and friendship, he 
sheweth what mean a man should keep for to avert and turn away 
the neighbour vice, and to urge our friends forward to their devoir: 
adding, moreover, that all remonstrance and admonition OU&ht to 
be tempered with mildness and lenity: wherein he concludeth this 
whole treatise, which I assure you is to be well read and marked in 
these days of all persons, but those especially who are advanced 
above others in worldly wealth or honourable place.] 

38 Plutarch's Morals 

Plato writeth (0 Antiochus Philopappus) that all men do 
willingly pardon him who professeth that he loveth himself 
best: Howbeit thereby (quoth he) is engendered in us this fault 
and inconvenience among many others the greatest: that by 
this means no man can be a just judge of himself, but partial and 
favourable. For the lover is ordinarily blinded in the thing 
that he loveth, unless he have been taught, yea, and accustomed 
long before, to affect and esteem things honest above those that 
be his own properly, or inbred and familiar to him. This is it 
that giveth unto a flatterer that large field, under pretence of 
friendship, where he hath a fort (as it were) commodiously 
seated, and with the vantage to assail and endamage us, and 
that is self-love : whereby every man being the first and greatest 
flatterer of himself, he can be very well content to admit a 
stranger to come near and flatter him, namely, when he thinketh 
and is well willing withal to witness with him and to confirm 
that good self-conceit and opinion of his own. For even he 
who is justly reproached to be a lover of flatterers, loveth himself 
notwithstanding exceeding w r ell : and for that good affection that 
he hath, is both very willing, yea, and fully persuaded also, that 
all good things are in himself: and the desire whereof is not 
simply bad and unlawful: but the persuasion is that it is 
-dangerous and slippery, having need to be restrained with great 
heed and carefulness. 

Now if truth be an heavenly thing, and the very source 
yielding all good things (as Plato saith), as well to the gods 
.as to men: we ought thus to judge that a flatterer is an enemy 
to the gods, and principally to Apollo : For opposite he is always 
.and contrary to this precept of his, Know thyself : causing a 
man to be abused and deceived by his own self, yea and to be 
ignorant of the good and evil things that be in him; in making 
the good gifts which are in him to be defective and unperfect: 
but the evil parts incorrigible and such as cannot be reformed. 
Now if it were so, that flattery (as the most part of other vices) 
touched either only or especially base, mean, and abject persons, 
>it were perhaps neither so hurtful nor so hard to be avoided as 
it is. But like as worms breed most of all and soonest in 
frim, tender and sweet wood: even so, for the most part, the 
generous and gentle natures, and those minds that are more 
ingenuous, honest, amiable, and mild than others, are readiest 
to receive and nourish the flatterer that hangeth upon him. 

Moreover, as Simonides was wont to say, that the keeping of 
an esquiry or stable of horses, followeth not the lamp or oil 

To Discern a Flatterer from a Friend 39 

cruet, but the rich cornfields: that is, it is not for poor men to 
entertain great horses, but those rather who are landed men 
and with their revenues able to maintain them: Even so, we 
see it is ordinary that flattery keepeth not company nor sortetb 
with poor folk, or such persons as live obscurely and are of no 
ability: but commonly it is the ruin and decay of great houses, 
and a malady incident to mighty states; which oftentimes 
undoeth and overthroweth whole monarchies, realms, and great 
seignories. In which regard it is no small matter, nor a thing 
that requireth little or no forecast and providence, to search 
and consider the nature thereof: lest being so active and busy 
as it is, and ready to meddle in every place (nothing so much), 
it do no hurt unto friendship, nor bring it into obloquy and 
discredit. For these flatterers resemble lice for all the world: 
And why? These vermin we see never haunt those that be 
dead, but leave and forsake the corpse so soon as ever the blood 
(whereof they were wont to feed) is extinct or deprived of vital 
spirit: Semblably, a man shall never see flatterers so much as 
approach unto such persons as are in decay, whose state is 
cracked and credit waxeth cool; but look where there is the 
glory of the world, where there is authority and power, thither 
they flock, and there they grow: no sooner is there a change of 
fortune but they sneak and slink away, and are no more seen. 

But we ought not to attend so long and stay for this trial, 
being unprofitable, or rather hurtful and not without some 
danger: For it goeth very hard with a man, if at the very- 
instant and not before, even when he hath most need of friend- 
ship, to peceive those to be no friends whom he took to be, 
and namely, when he hath not with him at hand a good and 
faithful friend, to exchange for him that is untrusty, disloyal- 
and counterfeit. For if a man did well, he should be provided 
beforehand of an approved and tried friend, ere he have need 
to employ him, as well as of current and lawful money; and 
not then to make trial of him and find him faulty, when he is in 
greatest necessity and standeth in most need : For we ought not 
to make proof with our loss, and find him to be false to our cost 
and detriment; but contrariwise to be skilful in the means of 
smelling out a flatterer, that we receive no damage by him : For 
otherwise, that might befall us which happeneth unto those 
who for to know the force of deadly poisons, take the assay and 
taste first themselves thereof: well may they indeed come to- 
the judgment thereof: but this skill is dearly bought, when they 
are sure to die for it. 

4-0 Plutarch's Morals 

And like as we do not commend such ; no more can we praise 

and approve of those who measure friendship only by honesty 

and profit: thinking withal, that such as converse and company 

with them pleasantly are straightways to be attainted as 

flatterers, no less than if they were taken in the very act of 

flattery: For surely a friend should not be unpleasant and 

unsavoury, without any seasoning (as it were) of delightsome 

qualities : neither is friendship to be accounted venerable in this 

respect, that it is austere or bitter; but even that very beauty 

and gravity that it hath is sweet and desirable, and as the poet 

saith : 

About her always seated be 
Delightsome love and graces three. 

And not he only who is in calamity 

Doth great content and comfort find 
To see the face of trusty friend, 

according as Euripides saith, but true amity addeth no less 
grace, pleasure, and joy unto those that be in prosperity, than 
it easeth them of sorrow and grief who are in adversity. Evenus 
was wont to say that of all pleasant sauce, fire was the best and 
most effectual: And even so God having mingled friendship 
with this life of ours, hath made all things joyous, sweet, 
pleasant and acceptable, where a friend is present and enjoyeth 
his part. For otherwise a man cannot devise nor express how 
and in what sort a flatterer could insinuate himself and creep 
into favour, under the colour of pleasure, if he saw that friend- 
ship in the own nature never admitted anything that was 
pleasant and delectable. But like as false and counterfeit pieces 
of gold, which will not abide the touch, represent only the lustre 
and bright glittering of gold : So a flatterer resembling the sweet 
and pleasant behaviour of a friend, sheweth himself always 
jocund, merry and delightsome, without crossing at any time. 
And therefore we ought not presently to suspect all them to 
be flatterers who are given to praise others : For otherwhiles to 
commend a man, so it be done in time and place convenient, is 
a property no less befitting a friend than to blame and reprehend : 
Nay, contrariwise, there is nothing so adverse and repugnant to 
amity and society than testiness, thwarting, complaining, and 
evermore fault-finding: whereas, if a man knoweth'the goodwill 
of his friend to be ever prest and ready to yield due praises, and 
those in full measure to things well done, he will bear more 
patiently and in better part another time his free reprehensions 

To Discern a Flatterer from a Friend 41 

and reproof for that which is done amiss: for that he is verily 
persuaded of him that as he was willing enough to praise, so 
he was as loth to dispraise, and therefore taketh all in good 

A difficult matter then it is, will some one say, to discern a 
flatterer from a friend, seeing there is no difference between 
them, either in doing pleasure, or yielding praise: for otherwise, 
we see oftentimes, that in many services, courtesies and kind- 
nesses besides, a flatterer is more ready and forward than a 
friend. True it is indeed we must needs say : a right hard matter 
it is to know the one from the other; especially if we speak of a 
right flatterer indeed, who is his own craftsmaster, and can skill 
how to handle the matter artificially, and with great cunning 
and dexterity: if (I say) we make no reckoning of them for 
flatterers, as the common people do, who are these ordinary 
smell- feasts, and as ready as flies to light in every dish: these 
parasites (I say), whose tongue (as one said very well) will be 
walking so soon as men have washed their hands and be ready 
to sit down to meat, cogging and soothing up their good masters 
at every word, who have no honesty at all in them, and whose 
scurrility, profane and irreligious impurity a man shall soon 
find with one dish of meat and cup of wine. For surely there 
was no great need to detect and convince the flattery of Melan- 
thius, the parasite and jester of Alexander Pheraeus the Tyrant, 
who being asked upon a time how Alexander his good lord and 
master was murdered, Marry, with a thrust (quoth he) of a 
sword, which went in at his side, and ran as far as into my 
belly: neither of such as a man shall never see to fail, but where 
there is a good house and plentiful table kept, they will be sure 
to gather round about it, in such sort as there is no fire nor iron 
grates, or brass gates, can keep them back, but they will be 
ready to put their foot under the board : no, nor of those women 
who in times past were called in Cypres, colacides, i.e. flatteresses ; 
but after they were come to Syria, men named them climacides , 
as one would say, ladderesses , for that they used to lie along, and 
to make their backs stepping-stools or ladders as it were for 
queens and great men's wives to get upon when they would 
mount into their coaches. 

What kind of flatterer then is it so hard and yet needful to 
beware of? Forsooth, even of him who seemeth none such, 
and professeth nothing less than to flatter: whom a man shall 
never find about the kitchen where the good meat is dressed, 
nor take measuring of shadows to know how the day goes, and 

42 Plutarch's Morals 

when it is dinner or supper time: nor yet see drunken and 
lying along the ground untowardly, and full like a beast: But for 
the most part sober he is enough; he loveth to be a curious 
polypragmon; he will have an oar in every boat, and thinks he 
is tc intermeddle in all matters; he hath a mind to be privy 
and party in all deep secrets; and in one word, he carrieth 
himself like a grave tragedian, and not as a comical and satirical 
player, and under that visor and habit he counterfeiteth a 
friend. For according to the saying of Plato, it is the greatest 
and most extreme injustice for a man to make semblance of 
being just when he is not: even so we are to think that flattery 
of all others to be most dangerous, which is covert and not 
apert or professed; which is serious (I say) and not practised 
by way of jest and sport. 

And verily such glozing and flattery as this causeth men 
oftentimes to mistrust true friendship indeed, and doth derogate 
much from the credit thereof: for that in many things it jumpeth 
so even therewith, unless a man take very good heed and look 
narrowly into it. True it is, that Gobrias being run into a 
dark and secret room, together with one of the usurping tyrants 
of Persia, called Magi, whom he pursued hard, and at handy 
gripes struggling, grappling, and wrestling close together, cried 
out unto Darius coming into the place with a naked sword, and 
doubting to thrust at the usurper, for fear he should run Gobrias 
through also, Thrust hardly and spare not (quoth he), though 
you dispatch us both at once. 

But we who in no wise can allow of that common saying, Let 
a friend perish, so he take an enemy with him : but are desirous 
to pluck and part a flatterer from a friend, with whom he is 
coupled and interlaced by means of so many resemblances: 
we (I say) have great cause to fear and beware that we do not 
cast and reject from us the good with the bad: or least in 
pardoning and accepting that which is agreeable and familiar 
unto us, we fall upon that which is hurtful and dangerous. For 
like as among wild seeds of another kind, those that being of 
the same form, fashion, and bigness with the grains of wheat 
are intermingled therewith, a man shall hardly try out from the 
rest, for that they will not pass through the holes of the sieve, 
ruddle or try, if they be narrow; and in case they be large and 
wide, out goeth the good corn together with them; even so it 
is passing hard to separate flattery from friendship, being so 
intermeddled therewith in all accidents, motions, affairs, deal- 
ings, employment, and conversation as it is. For considering 

To Discern a Flatterer from a Friend 43 

that a flatterer seeth well enough that there is nothing in the 
world so pleasurable as friendship, nor yieldeth more content- 
ment unto man than it doth: He windeth himself into favour 
by means of pleasure, and wholly is employed to procure mirth 
and delight. Also for that both grace and commodity doth 
always accompany amity; in which regard the common proverb 
saith, that a friend is more necessary than either fire or water. 
Therefore a flatterer is ready to put himself forward, and offereth 
his service with all double diligence, striving in all occasions, 
and businesses to be ever prompt and officious. And because 
the principal thing that linketh and bindeth friendship sure at 
the beginning, is the conformity and likeness of manners, studies, 
endeavours, and inclinations, and in one word, seeing that to 
be like affected, and to shew pleasure or displeasure in the same- 
things, is the chief matter that knitteth amity and both com- 
bineth, and also keepeth men together, by a certain mutual 
correspondence in natural affections: the flatterer knowing so- 
much, composeth his nature (as it were) some unformed matter 
ready to receive all sorts of impressions, studying to frame and 
accommodate himself wholly to all those things that he taketh 
in hand; yea, and to resemble those persons just by way of 
imitation whom he meaneth to set upon and deceive, as being 
supple, soft, and pliable, to represent them lively in every point, 
so as a man may say of him after this manner : 

Achilles' son think you he is? 
Nay, even Achilles himself iwis. 

But the craftiest cast of all other that he hath is this, that 
seeing (as he doth) liberty of speech (both in truth and also- 
according to the opinion and speech of the whole world) to be the 
proper voice of friendship (as a man would say) of some living 
creature; insomuch, as where there is not this freedom of 
speaking frankly, there is no true friendship nor generosity 
indeed. In this point also he will not seem to come short, nor 
leave it behind for want of imitation; but after the fashion of 
fine and excellent cooks, who use to serve up tart, bitter and 
sharp sauces together with sweet and pleasant meats, for to- 
divert and take away the satiety and fulness which soon fol- 
loweth them, these flatterers also use a certain kind of plain 
and free speech ; howbeit, neither sincere and natural is it, nor 
profitable, but (as we commonly say) from teeth outward, or 
(as it were) beckoning and winking slightly with the eye under 
the brows, not touching the quick, but tickling aloft only, to 
no purpose. 

44 Plutarch's Morals 

Well, in these respects above specified, hardly and with much 
ado is a flatterer discovered, and taken in the manner; much 
like unto those beasts who by nature have this property, to 
change their colour, and in hue to resemble that bodily matter 
or place whereon they settle, and which they touch. Seeing 
then it is so, that he is so apt to deceive folk, and lieth hidden 
under the likeness of a friend ; our part it is, by unfolding the 
differences that are so hidden, to turn him out of his masking 
habit, and being despoiled of those colours and habiliments 
that he borroweth of others, for want of his own (as Plato saith), 
to lay him naked and open to the eye : let us therefore enter into 
this discourse, and fetch it from the very first beginning. 

We have already said that the original of friendship among 
men (for the most part) is our conformity of nature and inclina- 
tion, embracing the same customs and manners, loving the 
same exercises, affecting the same studies, and delighting in the 
same actions and employments: concerning which these verses 
well and fitly run : 

Old folk love best with aged folk to talk, 
And with their feers young children to disport : 
Women once met, do let their tongues to walk, 
With sick likewise, sick persons best do sort : 
The wretched man his miseries doth lament 
With those whose state like fortunes do torment. 

The flatterer, then, being well aware that it is a thing naturally 
inbred in us, to delight in those that are like ourselves, to con- 
verse with them, and to use and love them above all others, 
endeavoureth first and foremost to draw and approach, yea, and 
to lodge near unto him whom he meaneth to enveigle and com- 
pass, even as if he went about in some great pasture to make 
toward one beast, whom he purposeth to tame and bring to 
hand, by little and little joining close unto him, as it were, to 
be concorporated in the same studies and exercises, in the same 
affections, employments and course of life: and this he doth so 
long, until the party whom he layeth for, have given him some 
advantage to take hold by, as suffering himself gently to be 
touched, clawed, handled, and stroked; during which time, he 
letteth slip no opportunity to blame those persons, to reprove 
those things and courses of life which he perceiveth the other 
to hate: contrariwise, to praise and approve all that which he 
knoweth him to take delight in: and this he doeth not after an 
ordinary manner and in a mean, but excessively and beyond 
all measure, with a kind of admiration and wonder; confirming 

To Discern a Flatterer from a Friend 45 

this love or hatred of his to a thing, not as if he had received these 
impressions from some sudden passion, but upon a staid and 
settled judgment. 

Which being so: how and by what different marks shall he be 
known and convinced that he is not the like or the same in deed, 
but only a counterfeit of the like and of the same ? First, a man 
must consider well whether there be an uniform equality in all 
his intentions and actions or no? whether he continue and 
persist still, taking pleasure in the same things, and praising the 
same at all times? whether he compose and direct his life 
according to one and the same mould and pattern? like as it 
becometh a man who is an ingenuous lover of that friendship 
and conversation which is ever after one manner, and always 
like itself: for such a one indeed is a true friend. But a flatterer 
contrariwise is one who hath no one permanent seat in his 
manners and behaviour, nor hath made choice of any life for 
his own content, but only to please another, as framing and 
applying his actions wholly to the humour of another, is never 
simple, uniform, nor like himself, but variable and changing 
always from one form to another, much like as water which is 
poured out of one vessel into another, even as it runneth forth, 
taketh the form and fashion of that vessel which receiveth it. 
And herein he is clean contrary to the ape; for the ape as it 
should seem, thinking to counterfeit a man, by turning, hopping, 
and dancing as he doth, is quickly caught: but the flatterer, 
whiles he doth imitate and counterfeit others, doth entice and 
draw them, as it were, with a pipe or call, into his net, and 
so beguileth them. And this he doeth not always after one 
manner; for with one he danceth and singeth; with another 
he will seem to wrestle, or otherwise to exercise the body in 
feats of activity: if he chance to meet with a man that loveth 
to hunt, and to keep hounds, him he will follow hard at heels, 
setting out a throat as loud in a manner as Hippolytus in the 
tragedy Phcedra, crying, 

So ho, this is my joy and only good, 

With cry to lure, with tooting horn to wind, 

By leave of gods to bring into the wood 

My hounds, to rouse and chase the dapple hind. 

And yet hath he nothing to do at all with the wild beasts of the 
forest, but it is the hunter himself whom he layeth for to take 
within his net and toil. And say that he light upon a young 
man that is a student and given to learning, then you shall see 
him also as deep poring upon his book, and always in his study; 


Plutarch's Morals 

you shall have him let his beard grow down to his foot, like 
a grave philosopher: who but he then, in his side threadbare 
student's cloak, after the Greek fashion, as if he had no care of 
himself, nor joy of anything else in the world: not a word then 
in mouth, but of the numbers, orthangles and triangles of Plato. 
If peradventure there fall into his hands an idle do-nothing, 
who is rich withal, and a good fellow, one that loveth to eat 
and drink and make good cheer, 

That wily fox Ulysses though 
His ragged garments will off do, 

off goes then his bare and overworn studying gown, his beard he 
causeth to be cut and shorn as near as a new mown field in 
harvest, when all the corn is gone: no talk then but of flagons, 
bottles, pots, and cooling pans to keep the wine cold: nothing 
now but merry conceits to move laughter in every walking 
place and gallery of pleasure: Now he letteth fly frumps and 
scoffs against scholars and such as study philosophy. 

Thus by report it fell out upon a time at Syracuse : For when 
Plato thither arrived, and Denys all on a sudden was set upon 
a furious fit of love to philosophy, his palace and whole court 
was full of dust and sand, by reason of the great recourse thither 
of students in geometry, who did nothing but draw figures 
therein. But no sooner had Plato incurred his displeasure and 
was out of favour: no sooner had Denys the Tyrant bidden 
philosophy farewell, and given himself again to belly-cheer, to 
wine, vanities, wantonness, and all looseness of life: but all 
at once it seemed the whole court was transformed likewise (as 
it were by the sorcery and enchantment of Circes) into hatred 
and detestation of good letters; so as they forgat all goodness, 
and betook themselves to folly and sottishness. 

To this purpose it were not amiss for to allege as testimonies 
the fashions and acts of some notorious flatterers, such, I mean, 
as have governed commonwealths and affected popularity. 
Among whom the greatest of all other was Alcibiades, who all the 
while he was at Athens used to scoff, and had a good grace in 
merry conceits and pleasant jests: he kept great horses, and 
lived in jollity, most gallantly, with the love and favour of all 
men: when he sojourned in Sparta, he went always shaven to 
the bare skin, in an overworn cloak, or else the same very coarse, 
and never washed his body but in cold water. Afterwards, 
being in Thrace, he became a soldier, and would carouse and 
drink lustily with the best. He came no sooner to Tissaphernes 

To Discern a Flatterer from a Friend 47 

in Asia, but he gave himself to voluptuousness and pleasure, 
to riot, wantonness, and superfluous delights: Thus throughout 
the whole course of his life he won the love of all men, by- 
framing himself to their humours and fashions wheresoever he 
came. Such were not Epaminondas and Agesilaus: For albeit 
they conversed with many sorts of people, travelled divers cities, 
and saw sundry fashions and manners of strange nations; yet 
they never changed their behaviour, they were the same men 
still, retaining evermore a decent port which became them, in 
their apparel, speech, diet, and their whole carriage and de- 
meanour. Plato likewise was no changeling, but the same man 
at Syracuse that he was in the academy or college at Athens: 
and look, what his carriage was before Dion, the same it was 
and no other in Denys his court. 

But that man may very easily find out the variable changes 
of a flatterer, as of the fish called the pourcuttle, who will but 
strain a little and take the pains to play the dissembler himself, 
making shew as if he likewise were transformed into divers and 
sundry fashions; namely in misliking the course of his former 
life, and suddenly seeming to embrace those things which he 
rejected before, whether it be in diet, action or speech: For then 
he shall soon see the flatterer also to be inconstant, and not a 
man of himself, taking love or hatred to this or that, joying or 
grieving at a thing, upon any affection of his own that leadeth 
him thereto, for that he receive th always as a mirror the images 
of the passions, motions and lives of other men. 

If you chance to blame one of your friends before him, what 
will he say by and by? Ah well, you have found him out I see 
now at last, though it were long first: Iwis I liked him not, a 
great while ago: Contrariwise, if your mind alter, so that you 
happen to fall a praising of him again : Very well done, will he 
say, and bind it with an oath, I con you thank for that: I am 
very glad for the man's sake, and I believe no less of him. Do 
you break with him about the alteration of your life, and bear 
him in hand that you mean to take another course, as for 
example, to give over state affairs, to betake yourself to a more 
private and quiet life. Yea, marry (quoth he), and then you 
do well, it is more than high time so to do: For long since we 
should have been disburdened of these troubles so full of envy 
and peril. Make him believe once that you will change your 
copy, and that you are about to shake off this idle life, and to 
betake yourself unto the commonweal, both to rule and also 
to speak in public place: you shall have him to soothe you 

4 8 

Plutarch's Morals 

up and second your song, with these and such-like responds: 
A brave mind (believe me) and beseeming a man of your worth 
and good parts: For to say a truth, this idle and private life, 
though it be pleasant, and have ease enough, yet it is but base, 
abject, and dishonourable; when you find him there once, 
muffle his nose immediately with this posy: 

Good sir, methinks you soon do turn your style, 
You seem much chang'd from him you were erewhile. 

I have no need of such a friend, that will alter as I do, and 
follow me every way (for my shadow can do that much better); 
I had rather have one that with me will follow the truth, and 
judge according to it and not otherwise. Avaunt, therefore, I 
will have nought to do with thee. Thus you see one way to 
discover a flatterer. 

A second difference we ought to observe in his imitations and 
resemblances, for a true friend doth not imitate all that he seeth 
him whom he loveth to do; neither is he forward in praising 
everything, but that only which is best: For according to 
Sophocles : 

In love he would his fellow be, 
But not in hate and enmity. 

And verily one friend is ready and willing to assist another in 
well-doing and in honest life, and never will yield to be com- 
panion in lewdness, or help him to commit any wicked and 
heinous fact; unless peradventure through the ordinary con- 
versation, and continual acquaintance together, he be tainted 
with infection of some ill quality and vicious condition, even 
against his will and ere he be well aware: much like as they 
who by contagion catch rheumatic and bleared eyes : or as the 
familiar friends and scholars (by report) of Plato did imitate 
him in stooping forward : and those of Aristotle in his stammer- 
ing and mafflng Speech; and the courtiers of Alexander the 
Great in bending of his neck and rough voice when he spake. 
For even so, some there be who receive impression of their 
manners and conditions at unawares and against their wills. 
But contrariwise, it fareth with a flatterer even as with the 
chameleon; for as he can take upon him any colour save only 
white; semblably, a flatterer cannot possibly frame himself to 
anything that good is and of importance: but there is no 
naughtiness and badness in the world which he will not quickly 
imitate. And well I may compare such fellows to ill painters, 
who when through insufficiency in their art they be not able to 

To Discern a Flatterer from a Friend 49 

draw to the life, the beauty and favour of a good face, will be 
sure vet to express the rivels, warts, moles, freckles, scars and 
such-like deformities. For even so a flatterer can imitate very 
passing well, incontinency, foolish superstition, hastiness and 
choler, bitterness towards household servants, distrust and 
diffidence in friends and kinsfolk, yea, and treachery against 
them: for that by nature he is always inclined to the worse; 
and besides, so far he would be thought from blaming vice, that 
he undertaketh to imitate the same. For those that seek for 
amendment of life and reformation of manners are ever sus- 
pected : such (I say) as shew themselves displeased and offended 
at the faults and misdemeanours of their friends. And this was 
it that made Dion odious to Denys the Tyrant, Samius to Philip, 
and Cleomenes to Ptolemaeus, and in the end was their ruin and 

The flatterer who desireth to be both pleasant and faithful 
at once, or at leastwise so to be reputed, for excessive love and 
friendship that he pretendeth, will not seem to be offended with 
his friend for any lewd parts, but in all things would be thought 
to carry the same affection, and to be in manner of the same 
nature and incorporate into him: whereupon it cometh to pass 
also that even in casual things and the occurrences of this life, 
which happen without our will and counsel, he will needs have a 
part, there is no remedy. This, if he be disposed to flatter sick 
persons, he will make as though he were sick also of the same 
disease for company: and if he have to do with such as be dim- 
sighted or hard of hearing, he will be thought neither to see nor 
hear well for fellowship. Thus the flatterers about Denys the 
Tyrant, when he had an impediment in his eyes that he could 
not see clearly, feigned that themselves likewise were half blind, 
and to make it good, hit one upon another at the board, and 
overthrew the dishes upon the table as they sate at supper. 

Others there be that proceed farther than so, and because 
they would appear more touched with a fellow-feeling of 
affections, will enter as far as to the very inward secrets that 
are not to be revealed. For if they can perceive that they whom 
they do flatter be not fortunate in their marriage, or that they 
are grown into distrust, jealousy, and sinister opinion, either of 
their own children or their near kinsfolk and familiars; they 
spare not themselves but begin to complain, and that with grief 
of heart and sorrow of their own wives and children, of their 
kindred and friends, laying abroad some criminous matters, 
which were better (iwis) to be concealed and smothered, than 

50 Plutarch's Morals 

uttered and revealed. And this resemblance and likeness that 
they take upon themselves causeth them to seem more affec- 
tionate and fuller of compassion. The other then, thus nattered, 
thinking that by this means they have received from them a 
sufficient pawn and assurance of their fidelity, stick not to let 
fall from their mouth some matter of secrecy also; and when 
they have once committed it unto them, then they are ever 
after bound to use them, yea, and be afraid to mistrust them 
in anything. I myself knew one who seemed to put away his 
own wedded wife because his friend whom he nattered had 
divorced his before : and when he had so done, was known to go 
secretly unto her, and messengers there were who passed to and 
fro between them underhand: which the divorced wife of the 
other perceived and found out well enough. Certes, little knew 
he what a flatterer was, and he had no experience of him who 
thought these iambic verses to express the sea-crab better 
than him: 

A beast whose body and belly are meet, 

The eye doth serve each way to see: 
With teeth it creeps, they stand for feet, 

Aread now what creature this may be? 

For this is the very portraiture and image of a parasite, who 
keeps about the frying-pan (as Eupolis saith) of his good friends, 
and waiteth where the cloth is laid. 

But as touching these things, let us refer them to their proper 
place for to be discoursed more at large. Howbeit, for the 
present let us not leave behind us one notable device and 
cunning cast, that a flatterer hath in his imitations; to wit, 
that if he do counterfeit some good quality that is in him whom 
he doth flatter, yet he giveth him always the upper hand: 
For among those that be true friends there is no emulation at 
all, no jealousy or envy between one and another; but whether 
they be equal in well-doing or come behind, they take all in good 
part and never grieve at the matter. But the flatterer, bearing 
well in mind that he in every place is to play the second part, 
yieldeth always in his imitation the equality from himself, and 
doth affect to counterfeit another so as he will be the inferior, 
giving the superiority unto the other in all things but those 
which are naught, for therein he challengeth to himself the 
victory over his friend. If he be somewhat malcontent and 
hard to be pleased, then will the flatterer profess himself to be 
stark melancholic: if his friend be somewhat too religious or 
superstitious, then will he make semblance as though he were 

To Discern a Flatterer from a Friend 5 1 

rapt and transported altogether with the fear of the gods: If 
the other be amorous, he will be in love furious : when the other 
saith I laughed a good ; but I (will he say again) laughed until I 
was well near dead. But in good things it is clean contrary, for 
when he speaketh of good footmanship he will say, I run swiftly 
indeed; but you fly away. Again, I sit a horse and ride reason- 
able well ; but what is that to this hippo-centaur here for good 
horsemanship? Also, I have a pretty gift in poetry (I must 
needs say) and am not the worst versifier in the world ; but 

To thunder verses I have no skill, 
To Jupiter there leave that I will: 

In these and such-like speeches two things at once he doth : for 
first he seemeth to approve the enterprise of the other as singular 
good, because he doth imitate him; and secondly, he sheweth 
that his sufficiency therein is incomparable and not to be 
matched, in that he confesseth himself to come short of him. 
And thus much of the different marks between a flatterer and 
a friend as touching their resemblances. 

Now, forasmuch as there is a community of delectation and 
pleasure in them both (as I have said before), for that an honest 
man taketh no less joy and comfort in his friends than a lewd 
person in flatterers, let us consider likewise the distinction 
between them in this behalf. The only way to distinguish them 
asunder in this point is to mark the drift and end of the delecta- 
tion, both in the one and the other; which a man may see more 
clearly by this example: There is in a sweet ointment an 
odoriferous smell; so is there also in an antidote or medicine; 
but herein lieth the difference, for that in the ointment above- 
said there is a reference to pleasure only, and to nothing else; 
but in the antidote, beside the delectation that the odour 
yieldeth, there is a respect also of some medicinable virtue, 
namely, either to purge and cleanse the body, or to heat and 
chafe it, or else to incarnate and make new flesh to come. 

Again, painters do grind and mix fresh colours and lively 
tinctures; so the apothecary hath drugs and medicines of a 
beautiful and pleasant colour to the eye, that it would do a 
man good to look upon them. But wherein is the difference? 
Is there any man so gross that conceiveth not readily that the 
odds lieth in the use or end for which both the one and the 
other be ordained? Semblably the mutual offices and kind- 
nesses that pass from friend to friend, beside the honesty and 
profit that they have, bring with them also that which is pleasing 

52 Plutarch's Morals 

and delectable, as if some dainty and lively flowers grew there- 
upon: For sometime friends use plays and pastimes one with 
another: they invite one another, they eat and drink together: 
yea, and otherwhiles (believe me) you shall have them make 
themselves merry and laugh heartily, jesting, gauding, and 
disporting one with another; all which serve as pleasant sauces 
to season their other serious and honest affairs of great weight 
and consequence. And to this purpose serve well these verses: 

With pleasant discourses from one to another 
They made themselves merry, being met together. 


And nothing else disjoined our amity, 

Nor parted our pleasures and mutual jollity. 

But the whole work of a flatterer, and the only mark that he 
shooteth at, is always to devise, prepare, and confect, as it were, 
some play or sport, some action and speech, with pleasure and to 
do pleasure. And to knit up all briefly in one word, he is of 
opinion that he ought to do all for to be pleasant: whereas the 
true friend, doing always that which his duty requireth, many 
times pleaseth, and as often again he is displeasant: not that 
his intention is to displease at any time ; howbeit, if he see it 
expedient and better so to do, he will not stick to be a little 
harsh and unpleasant. For like as a physician, when need 
requireth, putteth in some saffron or spikenard into his medicine: 
yea and otherwhile permitteth his patient a delicate bath, or 
liberal and dainty diet to his full contentment: but sometimes 
for it again, leaving out all sweet odours, casteth in castoreum, 

Or polium which strong scent doth yield, 
And stinks most of all herbs in field, 

or else he bruiseth and stampeth some ellebore, and forceth 
his patient to drink of that potion: not proposing either in the 
former medicine pleasure, nor in the latter displeasure for the 
end : but both by the one and the other training the sick person 
under his hand to one and the same effect of his cure, to wit, 
his good and the health of his body; even so it is with a true 
friend: one while with praises and gracious words he extolleth 
and cheereth up his friend, inciting him thereby always to that 
which is good and honest, as he in Homer: 

Dear heart, Sir Teucer, worthy son 

Of Telamon that knight, 
Come, prince and flower of valiant knights, 

Shoot thus your arrow's flight. 

To Discern a Flatterer from a Friend 53 

And another: 

How can I ever put out of mind 
Heavenly Ulysses, a prince so kind? 

Contrariwise, another while where there is need of chastisement 
and correction, he will not spare but use sharp and biting words: 
yea, and that free speech which carrieth with it an affection 
careful to do good, and such as indeed beseemeth a tutor and 
governor, much after this manner: 

What, Menelaus! however that 

From Jupiter you descend: 
You play the fool, for folly such 

I cannot you commend. 

It falleth out so likewise, that sometime he addeth deeds to 
words. And thus Menedemus shut the door against the son 
of Asclepiades his friend, and would not deign once to salute 
him, because he was a riotous youth, and lived dissolutely and 
out of all order : by which means he was reclaimed from loose 
life, and became an honest man. Arcesilaus in like manner 
excluded Battus out of his school, and would not suffer him to 
enter, because in a comedy that he composed, he had made one 
verse against Cleanthes; but afterwards, Battus repenting of 
that he had done, and making satisfaction unto Cleanthes, was 
pardoned and received again into his favour. For a man may 
offend his friend with intention to do him good; but he must 
not proceed so far in displeasing him that thereby he break or 
undo the knot of friendship: he ought (I say) to use a sharp 
rebuke, as a physician doth some bitter or tart medicine, to save 
or preserve the life of his patient. 

And a good friend is to play the part of a musician, who to 
bring his instrument into tune and so to keep it, setteth up these 
strings, and letteth down those: and so ought a friend to ex- 
change profit with pleasure, and use one with another, as 
occasion serveth, observing this rule, oftentimes to be pleasing 
unto his friend, but always profitable: whereas the flatterer, 
being used evermore to sing one note, and to play upon the 
same string, that is to say, to please : and in all his words and 
deeds to aim at nothing else but the contentment of him whom 
he flattereth, cannot skill either in act to resist, or in speech to 
reprove and offend him; but goeth on still in following his 
humour, according always with him in one tune, and keeping 
the same note just with him. 

Now, as Xenophon writeth of King Agesilaus, that he was 
well apaid to be commended of them who he knew would 

54 Plutarch's Morals 

also blame him if there were cause; so we are to think well of 
friendship when it is pleasant, delightsome, and cheerful, if 
otherwhiles also it can displease and cross again; but to have in 
suspicion the conversation and acquaintance of such as never 
do or say anything but that which is pleasing, continually keeping 
one course without change, never rubbing where the gall is, 
nor touching the sore, without reproof and contradiction. We 
ought (I say) to have ready always in remembrance the saying 
of an ancient Laconian, who hearing King Charilaus so highly 
praised and extolled; And how possibly (quoth he) can he be 
good who is never sharp or severe unto the wicked? The 
gadfly (as they say) which useth to plague bulls and oxen, 
settleth about their ears, and so doth the tick deal by dogs: 
after the same manner, flatterers take hold of ambitious men's 
ears, and possess them with praises; and being once set fast 
there, hardly are they to be removed and chased away. 

And here most needful it is that our judgment be watchful 
and observant, and do discern whether these praises be attributed 
to the thing or the person; we shall perceive that the thing 
itself is praised, if they commend men rather absent than in 
place : also if they desire and affect that themselves which they 
do so like and approve in others: again, if they praise not us 
alone, but all others, for the semblable qualities: likewise, if 
they neither say nor do one thing now, and another time the 
contrary. But the principal thing of all other is this, If we 
ourselves know in our own secret conscience that we neither 
repent nor be ashamed of that for which they so commend us; 
nor yet wish in our hearts that we had said or done the contrary: 
for the inward judgment of our mind and soul bearing witness 
against such praises, and not admitting thereof, is void of 
affections and passions, whereby it neither can be touched nor 
corrupted and surprised by a flatterer. Howbeit, I know not 
how it cometh about, that the most part of men cannot abide 
nor receive the consolations which be ministered unto them in 
their adversities, but rather take delight and comfort in those 
that weep, lament and mourn with them: and yet the same 
men having offended or being delinquent in any duty, if one 
come and find fault or touch them to the quick therefore, do 
strike and imprint into their hearts remorse and repentance, 
they take him for no better than an accuser and enemy: con- 
trariwise, let one highly commend and magnify that which 
they have done; him they salute and embrace, him they account 
their well-wilier and friend indeed. 

To Discern a Flatterer from a Friend 55 

Now, whosoever they be that are ready to praise and extol 
with applause and clapping of hands that which one hath done 
or said, were it in earnest or in game ; such (I say) are dangerous 
and hurtful for the present only, and in those things which are 
next hand: but those who with their praises pierce as far as 
to the manners within, and with their flatteries proceed to 
corrupt their inward natures and dispositions, I can liken unto 
those slaves or household servants who rob their masters, not 
only of that corn which is in the heap and lieth in the garners, 
but also of the very seed ; for the inclination and towardness of 
a man are the seed that bring forth all his actions, and the 
habitude of conditions and manners are the very source and 
head from whom runneth the course of our whole life, which they 
pervert in giving to vices the names of virtues. 

Thucydides in his story writeth: That during civil seditions 
and wars men transferred the accustomed significations of words 
unto other things, for to justify their deeds: for desperate 
rashness, without all reason, was reputed valour, and called 
love-friend: provident delay and temporising was taken for 
decent cowardice: modesty and temperance was thought to 
be a cloak of effeminate unmanliness: a prudent and wary 
circumspection in all things was held for a general sloth and 
idleness. According to which precedent we are to consider and 
observe in flatterers how they term prodigality by the name of 
liberality; cowardice is nothing with them but heedful wariness: 
brain-sickness they entitle promptitude, quickness, and celerity: 
base and mechanical niggardise they account temperate fru- 
gality. Is there one full of love and given to be amorous? him 
they call good fellow, a boon-companion, a man of a kind and 
good nature. See they one hasty, wrathful, and proud withal? 
him they will have to be hardy, valiant and magnanimous: 
contrariwise, one of a base mind and abject spirit they will 
grace with the attribute of fellow-like, and full of humanity. 
Much like to that which Plato hath written in one place : That 
the amorous lover is a flatterer of those whom he loveth. For 
if they be flat-nosed like a shoeing-horn, such they call lovely 
and gracious: be they hawk-nosed like a griffin, Oh, that is a 
kingly sight, say they: those that be black of colour are manly: 
white of complexion be God's children. And as for the term 
melichriis, that is, honey-coloured, it is always (verily) a flatter- 
ing word , devised by a lover, to mitigate and diminish the 
odiousness of a pale hue, which he seemeth by that sweet name 
not to mislike, but to take in the best part. And verily, if he 


Plutarch's Morals 

that is foul and ill-favoured be borne in hand that he is fair and 
beautiful, or one of small and low stature made believe that he 
is goodly and tall; he neither continueth long in this his error, 
neither is the damage that he sustaineth thereby grievous and 
great, nor unrecoverable: but the praises which induce and 
inure a man to believe that vice is virtue, insomuch that he is 
nothing at all discontented in his sin and grieved therefore, but 
rather taketh pleasure therein: those also which take away 
from us all shame and abashment to commit faults; such were 
they that brought the Sicilians to ruin, and gave them occasion 
to beautify or colour the tyranny and cruelty of Denys and 
Phalaris with the goodly names of justice and hatred of wicked- 
ness: These were the overthrow of Egypt, in cloaking the 
effeminate wantonness, the furious superstition, the yelling 
noises after a fanatical manner of King Ptolemseus, together 
with the marks that he carried of lilies and tabours in his body, 
with the glorious names of devotion, religion, and the service 
of the gods. 

And this was it that at the same time went very near and 
had like to have corrupted and spoiled for ever the manners 
and fashions of the Romans, which before were so highly reputed, 
to wit, naming the riotousness of Antony, his looseness, his 
superfluous delights, his sumptuous shews and public feasts, 
with their profusion and wasting of so much money, by smooth 
and gentle terms of courtesies, and merriments full of humanity, 
by which disguisements and pretexts his fault was mollified or 
diminished in abusing so excessively the grandeur of his puis- 
sance and fortune. And what was it else that made Ptolemaeus 
to put on the mask or muzzle (as it were) of a piper, and to 
hang about him pipes and flutes? What was it that caused 
Nero to mount up the stage to act tragedies, with a vizor over 
his face and buskins on his legs? was it not the praise of such 
flatterers as these ? And are not most of our kings being when 
they sing small and fine, after a puling manner, saluted Apollos 
for their music: and if they drink until they be drunk, honoured 
with the names of Bacchus, the god of wine: and when they 
seem a little to wrestle or try some feats of activity, styled 
by and by with the glorious addition of Hercules, brought 
(think you) to exceeding dishonour and shame by this gross 
flattery, taking such pleasure as they do in these gallant 

And therefore we had most need to beware of a flatterer in 
the praises which he giveth, which himself is not ignorant of, 

To Discern a Flatterer from a Friend 57 

but being careful and very subtle in avoiding all suspicion, if 
haply he meet with one of these fine fools and delicate minions, 
well set out in gay apparel : or some rustical thick-skin, carrying 
on his back a good leather pilch; or (as they say) one that 
feedetb grossly: such he will not spare, but abuse with broad 
flattery, and make common laughing-stocks of them: Like as 
Struthias, making a very ass of Bias, and riding him up and 
down, yea, and insulting upon him for his sottishness with 
braises that he would seem to hang upon him: Thou hast 
(quoth he) drunk more than King Alexander the Great, and 
with that, turning to Cyprius, laughed as hard as ever he could 
till he was ready to sink again. 

But if a flatterer chance to deal with them that be more civil 
and elegant, and do perceive that they have a special eye unto 
him in this point, namely, that they stand well upon their 
guard in this place for fear lest they be surprised by him : then 
he goes not to work directly in praising of them, but he keepeth 
aloof, he fetcheth about many compasses a great way off at 
first, afterwards by little and little he winneth some ground 
and approacheth nearer and nearer, making no noise until he 
can touch and handle them, much after the manner of those 
that come about wild beasts, assaying how to bring them to 
hand and make them tame and gentle. For one while he will 
report to such a one the praises that some other give out of him : 
imitating herein the rhetoricians who many times in their 
orations speak in the third person, and after this manner he will 
begin: I was not long since (quoth he) in the market-place, 
where I had some talk with certain strangers and other ancient 
personages of good worth, whom I was glad at the heart to hear 
how they recounted all the good in the world of you, and spake 
wonderfully in your commendation. Otherwhiles he will devise 
and fetch out of his own fingers' ends some light imputations 
against him, yet all forged and false, agreeable to his person and 
condition, making semblance as if he had heard others what 
they said of him, and very cunningly will he close with him, 
and bear him in hand that he is come in all haste to know of 
him, whether ever he said or did so as was reported of him: 
And if the other do deny it (as it is no other like but he will), there- 
upon he takes occasion to enter into the praise and commenda- 
tion of the man in this wise : I marvel truly how that you should 
abuse and speak ill of any of your familiars and friends, who 
were never wont so much as to miscall or say otherwise than 
well of your very enemies ? or how it possibly could be that you 


Plutarch's Morals 

should be ready to gape after other men's goods, who use to 
be so liberal and bountiful of your own ? 

Other flatterers there be, who like as painters do set up their 
colours and to give them more beautiful light and lustre unto 
them, lay near unto them others that be more dark and shadowy: 
so they, in blaming, reproving, reproaching, traducing and 
deriding the contrary virtues to those vices which are in them 
whom they mean to flatter, covertly and underhand do praise 
and approve those faults and imperfections that they have, and 
so in praising and allowing, do feed and cherish the same: As, 
for example, if they be among prodigal ding-thrifts and wasters, 
riotous persons, covetous misers, mischievous wretches, and 
such as have raked and scraped goods together by hook and 
crook, and by all indirect means they care not how : before them 
they will speak basely of temperance and abstinence, calling it 
rusticity: and as for those that live justly and with a good 
conscience, contenting themselves with their estate, and therein 
reposing sufhcance, those they will nickname heartless and base- 
minded folk, altogether insufficient to do or dare anything. If 
it fall out that they converse and be in company with such as 
be idle lusks and love to sit still at home and do nothing, for- 
bearing to meddle with ordinary affairs abroad in the world: 
they will not bash to find fault with policy and civil government, 
calling the managing of state matters and commonweal a 
thankless intermeddling in other men's affairs, with much 
travail and no profit. And as for the mind and desire to be a 
magistrate and to sit in place of authority, they will not let to 
say it is vainglory and ambition, altogether fruitless. For to 
flatter and claw an orator they will reprove in his presence a 
philosopher. Among light huswives that be wantonly given, 
they win the price, and are very well accepted, if they call honest 
matrons and chaste dames (who content themselves with their 
own husbands, and them love alone) rude and rustical women, 
untaught, ill bred, unlovely and having no grace with them. 

But herein is the very height of wickedness, that these 
flatterers for advantage will not spare their own selves: For 
like as wrestlers debase their own bodies and stoop down low 
otherwhiles, for to overthrow their fellows that wrestle with 
them, and to lay them along on the ground ; so in blaming and 
finding many faults with themselves they wind in and creep 
closely to the praise and admiration of others : I am (quoth one 
of them) a very coward, and no better than a very slave at sea; 
I can away with no labour and travail in the world ; I am all 

To Discern a Flatterer from a Friend 59 

in a heat of choler, and raging mad, if I hear that one hath given 
me any bad terms ; marry, as for this man (meaning him whom 
he flat'tereth), he casteth doubts at no peril and danger, all is one 
with him, sea or land, he can endure all hardness, and he 
counteth nothing painful, no hurt there is in him, a singular 
man he is, and hath not his fellow, he is angry at nothing, he 
beareth all with patience. But say he meet with one at a 
venture, which standeth upon his own bottom, and hath some 
great opinion of his own sufficiency for wit and understanding, 
who hath a desire to be austere, and not to depend upon the 
conceits of others, but resteth in his own judgment; and upon 
a certain uprightness in himself, eftsoons hath these verses in 
his mouth: 

Sir Diomede, do not me praise 

So much to more or less, 
Nor out of measure me dispraise, 

I love not such excess. 

This flatterer, then, who is his own craftsmaster and hath 
thoroughly learned his trade, goeth not the old way to work in 
setting upon him, but he hath another engine and device in 
store to assail such a grim sir withal. He will make an errand 
to him for counsel in his own affairs, as being the man whom he 
esteemeth to have more wit and wisdom than himself. There 
be divers others (quoth he) with whom I have better acquaint- 
ance and familiarity than with yourself: Howbeit, sir, I am 
forced of necessity to make bold and to importune you a little: 
For whither else should we ingram men repair that have need of 
advice? and to whom are we to have recourse in matters of 
trust and secrecy? And then, after he hath heard once what 
he will say, and it makes no matter what it be ; he will take his 
leave, saying that he hath received not counsel from a man, 
but an oracle from some god. Now before he departeth, if 
haply he perceive that he taketh upon him good skill and insight 
in literature, he will present unto him some compositions of his 
own penning, praying him withal to peruse them, yea, and to 
correct the same. Mithridates, the king, affected and loved the 
art of physic very well : by reason whereof some of his familiar 
friends about him came and offered themselves to be cut and 
cauterised by him : which was a mere flattery in deed and not in 
word. For it seemed that they gave great testimony of his 
skill, in that they put their lives into his hands: 

Of subtile spirits, thus you may see, 
That many forms and shapes there be. 

60 Plutarch's Morals 

But this kind of dissimuled praises, requiring greater and 
more wary circumspection to be taken heed of, if a man would 
detect and convince, he ought of purpose, when he is tempted 
and assailed with such flattery, to obtrude and propose unto 
the flatterer absurd counsel, if he seem to demand and ask it: 
advertisements also and precepts of the same kind, yea, and 
corrections without all sense and to no purpose, when he shall 
offer his labours to be read and perused: In so doing, if he 
perceive the party suspected to be a flatterer, doth not gainsay 
nor contradict anything, but alloweth of all and receiveth the 
same, yea, and more than that, when he shall to every point 
cry out and say, Oh, well said and sufficiently: O excellent wit: 
be sure then he is caught in a trap : then I say it will be found 
plainly according to the common byword, 

That when he did a watchword crave, 
Some other thing he sought to have : 
Or as we say (in proverb old), 
Draff was his errand, but drink he would ; 

that is to say, he waited for some occasion and opportunity by 
praising to puff him up with vanity and overweaning of himself. 
Moreover, like as some have defined painting to be a mute poesy; 
even so praising is a kind of silent and secret flattery. Hunters 
(we see), then, soonest deceive the poor beasts, when they seem 
to do nothing less than to hunt, making semblance as though they 
either travelled like wayfaring men, or tended their flocks, or 
else tilled the ground. Semblably flatterers touch those whom 
they flatter nearest and enter to the very quick by praising, 
when they make no shew thereof, but seem to do nothing less 
than praise. For he that giveth the chair and seat to another 
coming in place, or as he is making an oration either in public 
place before the people or in council house to the senate, 
breaketh off his own speech, and yieldeth unto him his room, 
giving him leave to speak or to opine, and remaineth silent him- 
self: by this his silence sheweth that he doth repute the other 
a better man and of more sufficiency for wisdom and knowledge 
than himself, much more than if he should pronounce and ring 
it out aloud to the whole audience. 

And hereupon it is that this sort of people who make profession 
of flattery, take up ordinarily the first and highest seats, as well 
at sermons and public orations whither men flock to hear, as at 
the theatres and shew places, not that they think themselves 
worthy of such places, but because they may rise and make 
room for better and richer persons as they come, and thereby 

To Discern a Flatterer from a Friend 61 

flatter them kindly. This we see also, that in solemn assemblies 
and great meetings or auditories they are by their good wills the 
first that put themselves forth and make offer to begin speech; 
but it is for nothing else but that afterward they would seem to 
quit the place and give assent to their betters, soon retracting 
their own opinions, when they hear a mighty man, a rich or 
noble personage in authority to contradict and say the contrary. 
And here we ought most of all to be circumspect and wary, that 
we may evict them of this, that all this courting, this giving 
place, this yielding of the victory and reverence made unto 
others, is not for any more sufficiency that they acknowledge 
in them, for their knowledge, experience and virtues; nor yet 
for their worthiness in regard of elder age, but only for their 
wealth, riches, credit, and reputation in the world. 

Megabysus, 1 a great lord belonging to the king's court of 
Persia, came upon a time to visit Apelles the painter: and 
sitting by him in his shop to see him work, began of his own 
accord to discourse I wot not what, of lines, shadows and other 
matters belonging to his art: Apelles hearing him, could not 
hold, but said unto him; See you not, sir, these little prentice 
boys here that grind ochre and other colours? So long as you 
sate still and said never a word, they advised you well and their 
eye was never off, wondering to see your rich purple robes, your 
chains and jewels of gold, no sooner began you to speak but they 
fell to teighing, and now they laugh you to scorn, talking thus 
as you do of those things which you never learned. And Solon, 
being demanded once by Croesus, King of Lydia, what men he 
had seen whom he reputed most happy in this world? named 
unto him one Tellus, none of the great men of Athens, but a 
good plain and mean citizen, Cleobis also and Biton: and these 
he said were of all others most fortunate. But these flatterers 
will affirm that kings and princes, rich men and rulers, are not 
only blessed, happy, and fortunate; but also excel all others in 
wisdom, knowledge and virtue. There is not one of them that 
can endure so much as to hear the Stoics, who hold that the 
sage and wise man (such a one as they depaint unto us) ought 
all at once to be called rich, fair, noble, yea, and a king: whereas 
our flatterers will have the rich man only, whom they are dis- 
posed to flatter, to be an orator and a poet ; yea, and if he will 
himself, a painter, a good piper, passing light of foot and strong 
of limbs ; insomuch, as whosoever wrestleth with him shall be sure 
to take the foil and lie along; and whomsoever he runneth with 
1 Pliny reporteth this of King Alexander, and not of Megabysus. 

62 Plutarch's Morals 

in the race, he shall come behind him a fair deal, but how? 
Surely even as Crisson, the Himeraean, lagged for the nonce 
behind King Alexander the Great, when he ran with him for the 
best game : for which the king was highly displeased and wroth 
at him, when he once perceived it. Carneades was wont to say 
that the sons of kings and great rich men learned to do nothing 
well and right, but only to sit and ride an horse. For that their 
masters are wont to flatter and praise them in all their schools 
where they be taught: for if they be at the exercise of wrestling, 
you shall have him that wrestleth with them of purpose to take 
a fall and lie under them : Marry, the horse, not knowing nor 
having the reason to discern a private man's son from a prince; 
nor whether he be poor or rich that sits upon his back, will be 
sure to cast him over his head and lay him along, whosoever he 
be, that cannot skill how to hold and rule him. Bion, therefore, 
was but a very lob and fool in saying thus : If I wist that with 
praising a piece of ground I could make it good, rich and fertile, 
it should want for no praises; and rather would I commend it 
than toil and moil in digging, tilling, and doing work about it. 
And yet I will not say that a man is to blame and doth amiss 
in praising: if so be that those who are praised be the better 
and more fruitful in all good things for it. Howbeit, to come 
again into the ground before said ; a field being praised never 
so much is not the worse nor less fertile therefore : but I assure 
you they that commend folk falsely, and beyond their desert and 
due, puff them full of wind and vanity, and work their overthrow 
in the end. But now, having discoursed sufficiently upon this 
article and point of praises, let us proceed forward to treat of 
frankness and liberty of speech. 

And verily meet and reason it had been, that as Patroclus, 
when he put on the armour of Achilles and brought forth his 
horses of service to battle, durst not meddle with his spear 
Pelias, but left it only untouched; so a flatterer also, although 
he mask and disguise himself with other habits, ornaments and 
ensigns of a friend, should let this liberty only of speech alone, 
and not once go about to touch or counterfeit it, as being 

A baston of such poise and weight, 

So big withal, so stiff and straight, 

that of all others it belongeth only to friendship for to be carried 
and wielded by it. But forasmuch as our flatterers nowadays 
are afraid to be detected in laughing in their cups, in their jests, 
scoffs, and gamesome mirth; therefore to avoid such discovery, 

To Discern a Flatterer from a Friend 63 

they have learned forsooth to knit and bend the brows, they 
can skill, iwis, to flatter, and yet look with a frowning face and 
crabbed countenance, they have the cast to temper with their 
glavering glozes some rough reprehensions and chiding checks 
among: let us not overpass this point untouched, but consider 
and examine the same likewise. For mine own part I am of 
this mind : That as in a comedy of Menander there comes in a 
counterfeit Hercules to play his part upon the stage with a club 
on his shoulder, that is (you may be sure) nothing massive, 
heavy, stiff and strong, but some device and gawd, hollow and 
empty within, made of brown paper or such-like stuff; Even 
so, that plain and free speech which a flatterer useth will be 
found light, soft, and without any strength at all to give a blow: 
much like (to say truly) unto the soft bed pillows that women 
lie on, which seeming full and plump to resist and bear out 
against their heads, yield and sink under the same so much the 
more: For after the same manner this counterfeit free speech 
of theirs puffed up full of wind, or else stuffed with some deceitful 
light matter, seemeth to rise up, to swell, and bear out hard and 
stiff, to the end that being pressed down once (and both sides 
as it were coming together) it might receive, enlap and enfold 
him that chanceth to fall thereupon, and so carry him away 
with it. Whereas the true and friendly liberty of speech indeed 
taketh hold of those that are delinquent and do offend, bringing 
with it a kind of pain for the time, which notwithstanding is 
wholesome and healthful: resembling herein the nature of 
honey, which being applied to a sore or ulcerous place, at the 
first doth smart and sting; but it doth cleanse and mundify 
withal, and otherwise is profitable, sweet, and pleasant. 

But as touching this plain dealing and frank speech, I will 
write a part of purpose in place convenient. As for the flatterer, 
he maketh shew at the first, that he is rough, violent, and 
inexorable in all dealings with others : For over his servants he 
carrieth a hard hand, and is not pleased with their service, with 
his familiars, acquaintance and kinsfolk he is sharp and eager, 
ready to find fault with everything; he maketh no reckoning 
nor account of any man but himself; he despiseth and disdaineth 
all the world besides; there is not a man living that he will 
pardon and forgive ; he blameth and accuseth every one ; and his 
whole study is to win the name and reputation of a man that 
hateth vice, and in that regard careth not whom he doth 
provoke, and whose displeasure he incur: as who for no good 
in the world would be hired to hold his tongue, nor willingly 

64 Plutarch's Morals 

forbear to speak plainly the truth ; who with his goodwill would 
never speak or do anything to soothe up and please another: 
Then will he make semblance as though he neither saw nor 
took knowledge of any great and gross sins indeed: but if per- 
adventure there be some light and small outward faults, he will 
make foul ado thereat, he will keep a wondering and crying out 
upon them: then shall you have him in good earnest exclaim 
and reprove the delinquent with a loud and sounding voice: 
As, for example, if he chance to espy the implements or anything 
else about the house lie out of order; if a man be not well and 
neatly lodged; if his beard be not of the right cut, or his hair 
grow out of fashion; if a garment sit not handsomely about him, 
or if a horse or hound be not so carefully tended as they should 
be. But say that a man set nought by his parents, neglect his 
own children, misuse his wife, disdain and despise his kindred, 
spend and consume his goods; none of all these enormities 
touch and move him : Here he is mute and hath not a word to 
say ; he dares not reprove these abuses : much like as if a master 
of the wrestling school, who suffereth a wrestler that is under 
his hand to be a drunkard and a whoremonger, should chide and 
rebuke him sharply about an oil cruse or curry-comb ; or as if 
a grammarian should find fault with his scholar and chide him 
for his writing-tables or his pen, letting him go away clear with 
solecisms, incongruities and barbarisms, as if he heard them not. 
Also I can liken a flatterer to him who will not blame an ill 
author, or ridiculous rhetorician in anything as touching his 
oration itself; but rather reproveth him for his utterance, and 
sharply taketh him up for that by drinking of cold water he 
hath hurt his wind-pipe, and so marred his voice; or to one 
who being bidden to read over and peruse a poor seely epigram 
or other writing that is nothing worth, taketh on and fareth 
against the paper wherein it is written, for being thick, coarse or 
rugged ; or against the writer, for negligent, slovenly or impure 
otherwise. Thus the claw-backs and flatterers about King 
Ptolemaeus, who would seem to love good letters, and to be 
desirous of learning, used ordinarily to draw out their disputa- 
tions and conferences at length, even to midnight, debating 
about some gloss or signification of a word, about a verse, or 
touching some history: but all the while there was not one 
among so many of them that would tell him of his cruelty, of 
his wrongs and oppressions, nor yet of his drumming, 1 tabouring, 

1 Tv/xiravi^oPTos /cat reXeovyros. Some expound it, beating his subjects 
with cudgels, and oppressing them with excessive exactions. 

To Discern a Flatterer from a Friend 65 

and other enormous indignities, under the colour of religion; 
and seek to reform him. Certes, a foolish fellow were he who, 
coming to a man diseased with tumours, swellings, impostumes, 
or hollow ulcers, called jistulae, should with a chirurgeon's lancet 
or barber's razor, fall to cut his hairs or pare his nails; even so 
it fareth with these flatterers, who apply their liberty of speech 
to such things as neither are in pain nor yet do any hurt. 

Moreover, some others there be of them, who being more 
cunning and crafty than their fellows, use this plainness of 
language and reprehension of theirs for to please and make 
sport withal. Thus Agis the Argive, seeing how Alexander the 
Great gave very great rewards and gifts to a certain pleasant 
and odd fellow that was a jester, cried out for very envy and 
dolour of heart, great abuse and monstrous absurdity: The 
king hearing it, turned about unto him in great displeasure and 
indignation, demanding of him what he had to say? I confess 
(quoth he) indeed that I am grieved, and I think it a great 
indignity, when I see all you that are descended from Jupiter and 
his sons, to take pleasure in flatterers and jesters about you, for 
to make you merry. For even so Hercules took a delight to 
have in his company certain ridiculous Cercopes, and Bacchus 
had ever in his train the Silenes. In your court likewise, a man 
may see such to be in credit and highly esteemed. 

When Tiberius Caesar, the emperor, upon a certain day was 
come into the senate house of Rome, one of the senators who 
knew how to flatter, arose and stood up, and with a good loud 
voice ; Meet it is (quoth he), Caesar, that men free born should 
likewise have the liberty of speech, and speak their minds 
frankly, without dissimuling or concealing anything which they 
know to be good and profitable: with this speech of his he 
stirred up the attention of the whole house, so as they gave 
good ear unto him, and Tiberius himself listened what he would 
say. Now when all was still and in great silence; Hearken 
(quoth he), Caesar, what it is that we all accuse and blame you 
for, but no man dare be so bold as to speak it out: You neglect 
yourself, and have no regard of your own person ; you consume 
and spoil your body with continual cares and travels for our 
sake, taking no rest nor repose either day or night. Now when 
he had drawn out a long train of words to this purpose, Cassius 
Severus, a rhetorician, stood up, and by report said thus; Such 
liberty of speech as this will be the utter undoing of this man. 

But these flatteries are of the lighter sort, and do less hurt: 
there be other more dangerous which work the mischief and 


66 Plutarch's Morals 

corruption of those who are not wise, and take no heed unto 
them; namely, when flatterers set in hand to reprove them 
whom they flatter, for the contrary vices to those that be in 
them. Thus Himerius the flatterer reproached a certain rich 
man of Athens, the veriest pinching miser and the most covetous 
withal that was in the whole city, with the imputations of 
prodigality, and negligence about his own profit and gain; 
charging him that one day he would smart for it, and both he 
and his children be hunger-starved for want wherewith to 
sustain themselves, if he looked no better to his thrift: or when 
they object miserable niggardise and beggary unto those that 
are known to be prodigal spenders, and consume all. After 
which manner Titus Petronius reproved Nero. 

Again, if they come to princes and great lords, who deal cruelly 
and hardly with their subjects and tenants, saying unto them, 
that they must lay away this overmuch lenity and foolish pity 
of theirs, which neither is seemly for their persons, nor yet 
profitable for their state. And very like to these is he who 
maketh semblance to him who is a very senseless sot and foolish 
fool, that he stands in great fear and doubt of him, lest he should 
be circumvented by him, as if he were some cautelous, crafty 
and cunning person. He also that doth rebuke another, who 
is an ordinary slanderer, who taketh pleasure (upon spite and 
envy) to be ever railing on all men, and backbiting them, if he 
chance any one time to break out into the praise of some worthy 
and excellent personage, saying in this manner unto him ; This 
is a great fault that you have, and a disease that followeth you, 
thus to praise men of no worth : What is he (I pray you) whom 
you thus commend? what good parts be in him? hath he at 
any time done any doughty deed, or delivered any singular 
speech that might deserve such praises? 

But in amatorious and love matters they pass: there you 
shall have them most of all to come over those whom they 
flatter and lay on load; to them they will join close, and set 
them on a flaming fire. For if they see brethren at some 
variance, or setting nought by their parents, or else to deal 
unkindly with their own wives, and to set no store by them, or 
to be jealous and suspicious of them; they never admonish, 
chastise or rebuke them for it, that they may amend, but rather 
,they will kindle more coals between, and encrease their anger 
and discontentment on both sides: Nay, it is no great matter 
(will they say), it is even well enough; you will never see and 
know who you are; you are the cause of all this your own self; 

To Discern a Flatterer from a Friend 67 

and self do, self have; you evermore have borne yourselves so 
pliable, submiss and lowly toward them, but you are but 
rightly served. But say there be some itching heat of love, or 
smart anger upon jealousy, in regard of a courtesan or married 
wife, whom the party is amorous of; then shall you see a 
flatterer ready at hand to display his cunning openly, and to 
speak his mind freely unto him, putting fire to fire and feeding 
his love ; you shall have him to lay the law upon this lover, accus- 
ing and entering process against him in these terms : You have 
broken the laws of love; you have done and said many things 
not so kindly as beseemed a true lover, but rather dealt hardly 
with your love, and enough to lose her heart, and incur her 
hatred for ever: 

Unthankful person that thou art, 
For kisses so many of thy sweetheart. 

Thus the flattering friends of Antonius, when he burned in love 
of the Egyptian queen Cleopatra, would persuade and make him 
believe that she it was who was enamoured upon him, and by 
way of opprobrious imputation they would tell him to his face 
that he was proud, disdainful, hard-hearted, and void of all kind 
affection. This noble queen (would they say) forsaking so 
mighty and wealthy a kingdom, so many pleasant palaces, and 
stately houses of blessed abode, such means and opportunities 
of happiness, for the love of you pineth away, and consumeth 
herself, trudging after your camp to and fro, for to do your 
honour content and pleasure with the habit and title of your 

Whiles you in breast do carry an heart 
Which will not be wrought by any art, 

neglecting her (good lady) and suffering her to perish for sorrow 
and heart's grief. Whereupon he being well enough pleased to 
hear himself thus charged with wrong-doing to her, and taking 
more pleasure in these accusations of theirs than if they had 
directly praised him, was so blind that he could not see how 
they that seemed thus to admonish him of his duty, perverted 
and corrupted him thereby so much the more. For this counter- 
feit liberty of plain dealing and plain speech may be very well 
likened to the wanton pinches and bitings of luxurious women 
who tickle and stir up the lust and pleasure of men by that 
which might seem to cause their pain. For like as pure wine, 
which otherwise of itself is a sure remedy against the poison of 
hemlock, if a man do mingle it with the juice of the said hemlock, 

68 Plutarch's Morals 

doth mightily enforce the poison thereof, and make it irre- 
mediable, for that by means of the heat it conveyeth the same 
more speedily unto the heart; even so these lewd and mis- 
chievous flatterers, knowing full well that frank speech is a 
singular help and remedy against flattery, abuse it to flatter 
withal. And therefore it seemeth that Bias answered not so well 
as he might have done, to one that asked of him, which was the 
shrewdest and most hurtful beast of all other: If (quoth he) 
your question be of wild and savage, a tyrant is worse; if of 
tame and gentle, a flatterer. For he might have said more 
truly; that of flatterers some be of a tame kind, such (I mean) 
as these parasites are who haunt the bains and stouphs; those 
also that follow good cheer and keep about the table. As for 
him who (like as the pourcuttle fish stretcheth out his claws like 
branches) reacheth as far as to the secret chambers and cabinets 
of women, with his busy intermeddling, with his calumniations 
and malicious demeanours, such a one is savage, fell, intractable, 
and dangerous to be approached. 

Now one of the means to beware of this flattery is to know 
and remember always that our soul consisteth of two parts, 
whereof the one is addicted to the truth, loving honesty and 
reason ; the other more brutish, of the own nature unreasonable, 
given to untruth and withal passionate. A true friend assisteth 
evermore the better part, in giving counsel and comfort, even 
as an expert and skilful physician, who hath an eye that aimeth 
always at the maintenance and increase of health: but the 
flatterer doth apply himself, and settleth to that part which is 
void of reason and full of passions: this he scratcheth, this he 
tickleth continually, this he stroketh and handleth in such sort, 
by devising some vicious and dishonest pleasures, that he with- 
draweth and turneth it away quite from the rule and guidance 
of reason. Moreover, as there be some kind of viands, which 
if a man eat they neither turn unto blood nor engender spirits, 
nor yet add vigour and strength to the nerves and the marrow : 
but all the good they do is haply to cause the flesh or genital 
parts to rise, to stir and loose the belly, or to breed some foggy, 
phantom and half-rotten flesh, which is neither fast nor sound 
within; even so, if a man look nearly and have good regard 
unto a flatterer, he shall never find that all the words he useth, 
minister or procure one jot of good to him that is wise and 
governed by reason ; but feed fools with the pleasant delights of 
love; kindle and augment the fire of inconsiderate anger; pro- 
voke them unto envy; breed in them an odious and vain pre- 

To Discern a Flatterer from a Friend 69 

sumption of their own wit ; increase their sorrow and grief, with 
moaning them and lamenting with them for company; set on 
work and exasperate their inbred naughtiness and lewd dis- 
position; their illiberal mind and covetous nature; their diffi- 
dence and distrustfulness of others; their base and servile 
timidity, making them always worse, and apt to conceive ill; 
more fearful, jealous and suspicious, by the means of some new 
accusations, false surmises and conjectural suggestions, which 
they be ready to put into their heads. For evermore it getteth 
closely into some vicious passion and affection of the mind, and 
there lurketh ; the same it nourisheth and f eedeth fat, but anon 
it appeareth like a botch, rising eftsoons upon the corrupt, 
diseased or inflamed parts of the soul. Art thou angry with 
one? punish him (saith he): Hast thou a mind to a thing? buy 
it, and make no more ado: Art thou never so little afraid? let 
us fly and begone: Suspectest thou this or that? believe it 
confidently (saith he). 

But if peradventure, he can hardly be seen and discovered 
about these passions, for that they be so mighty and violent 
that oftentimes they chase and expel all use of reason, he will 
give some vantage to be sooner taken in others that be not 
so strong and vehement, where we shall find him always the 
same and like himself. For say a man do suspect that he hath 
taken a surfeit, either by over-liberal feeding or drinking heady 
wine, and upon that occasion make some doubt to bathe his 
body, or to eat presently again and lay gorge upon gorge (as they 
say): A true friend will advise him to forbear and abstain; he 
will admonish him to take heed to himself and look to his 
health: In comes a flatterer, and he will draw him to the bain 
in all haste; he will bid him to call for some novelty or other 
to be set upon the board, willing him to fall fresh to it again, 
and not to punish his body and do himself injury by fasting 
and refusing his meat and drink : Also if he see him not disposed 
to take a journey by land or voyage by sea, or to go about any 
enterprise, whatsoever it be, slowly and with an ill will, he will 
say unto him; either that there is no such great need, or the 
time is not so convenient, but it may be put off to a farther day, 
or it will serve the turn well enough to send others about it. 

Now if it fall out so, that he having made promise to some 
familiar friend either to lend or let him have the use of some 
money, or to give him it freely, do change his mind and repent 
of his promise; but yet be somewhat abashed and ashamed 
thus to break his word; the flatterer by and by will put himself 

jo Plutarch's Morals 

to the worse and lighter end of the balance, and make it weigh 
downe on the purse side, soon excluding and cutting off all 
shame for the matter: What, man! (will he say), spare your 
purse and save your silver; you are at a great charge ; you keep 
a great house, and have many about you which must be main- 
tained and have sufficient; in such sort, that if we be not alto- 
gether ignorant of ourselves, and wilfully blind, not seeing that 
we be covetous, shameless, timorous and base-minded, we 
cannot choose but start and find out a flatterer; neither is it 
possible that he should escape us. For surely he will evermore 
defend and maintain these imperfections, and frankly will he 
speak his mind in favour thereof, if he perceive us to over-pass 
ourselves therein. But thus much may suffice as touching 
these matters. 

Let us come now to the uses and services that a flatterer is 
employed in: For in such offices he doth confound, trouble, and 
darken much the difference between him and a true friend; 
shewing himself in appearance always diligent, ready and 
prompt in all occurrences, without seeking any colourable 
pretences of shifting off, and a refusing to do anything. As 
for a faithful friend, his whole carriage and behaviour is simple, 
like as be the words of truth, as saith Euripides, without welts 
and guards, plain without plaits, and nothing counterfeit: 
whereas the conditions of a flatterer, to say a truth, 

By nature are diseased much, 
And medicines needful are for such, 

not only with wisdom to be ministered and applied, but also 
many in number, and those (I assure you) of a more exquisite 
making and composition than any other. And verily as friends 
many times when they meet one another in the street, pass by 
without good-morrow or god-speed, or any word at all between 
them; only by some lightsome look, cheerful smile, or amiable 
regard of the eye reciprocally given and taken, without any 
other token else, there is testified the goodwill and mutual 
affection of the heart within: whereas the flatterer runneth 
toward his friend to meet him, followeth apace at his heels, 
spreadeth forth both his arms abroad, and that afar off, to 
embrace him: and if it chance that he be saluted and spoken 
to first, because the other had an eye on him before, he will with 
brave words excuse himself, yea, and many times call for wit- 
nesses, and bind it with great oaths good store, that he saw 
him not. 

To Discern a Flatterer from a Friend ji 

Even so likewise in their affairs and negotiations abroad in 
the world, friends omit and overslip many small and light things, 
not searching narrowly into matters, not offering or expecting 
again any exquisite service; nothing curious and busy in each 
thing, nor yet putting themselves forward to every kind of 
ministry: but the flatterer is herein double diligent, he will be 
continually employed and never rest, without seeming at any 
time to be weary, no place, no space nor opportunity will he 
give the other to do any service; he looketh to be called unto 
and commanded; and if he be not bidden, he will take it ill 
and be displeased; nay, you shall have him then out of heart 
and discouraged, complaining of his ill fortune, and protesting 
before God and man, as if he had some great wrong done unto 
him. These be evident marks and undoubted arguments to 
such as have wit and understanding, not of a friendship sound, 
sober and honest, but rather smelling of wanton and whorish 
love, which is more ready to embrace and clip than is decent 
and seemly. Howbeit, to examine the same more particularly, 
let us consider what difference there is between a flatterer and 
a friend, as touching the offers and promises that they make. 
They who have written of this theme before us, say very well 
that a friend's promise goeth in this form: 

If that I can, or if it may be done, 

Fulfil I will your mind, and that right soon. 

But the offer of a flatterer runneth in this manner: 

What would you have ? say but the word to me, 
Without all doubt effected it shall be. 

For such frank promisers and braggers as these the poets also 
use to bring unto the stage in their comedies, after this sort : 

Now of all loves, Nicomachus, this I crave, 
Set me against this soldier here so brave, 
I will so swinge his coat, you shall it see, 
That like a pompion his flesh shall tender be: 
His face, his head I shall much softer make, 
Than is the spunge that grows in sea or lake. 

Moreover, you shall not see a friend offer his helping hand or 
aid in any action, unless he were called before to counsel, and 
his opinion asked of the enterprise, or that he have approved 
and set down the same upon good advisement, to be either 
honest or profitable: whereas the flatterer, if a man should do 
him so much credit, as to require his consent and approbation, 
or otherwise request him to deliver his opinion of the thing, he, 

72 Plutarch's Morals 

not only upon a desire to yield unto others and to gratify them, 
but also for fear to give any suspicion that he would seem to 
draw back and avoid to set his hand to any work or business 
whatsoever, is ready with the foremost to apply himself to the 
appetite and inclination of another, yea and withal, pricketh 
and inciteth him forward to enter upon it. And yet lightly 
you shall find even of rich men and kings but few or none who 
can or will come forth with these words : 

Would God some one that needy is and poor, 
Yea, worse than he that begs from door to door, 
Would come to me (so that he were my friend) 
Without all fear, and speak to me his mind. 

But nowadays it is far otherwise; for they are much like unto 
composers of tragedies, who will be provided of a quire or dance 
of their friends to sing with them, or desire to have a theatre of 
purpose to give applause and clap their hands unto them. And 
verily, whereas Merope in a certain tragedy giveth these sage 
and wise advertisements: 

Take those for friends, I rede, and hold them so, 
Whose speech is sound, and waves not to and fro: 
But those that please thy mind in word and deed, 
Count lewd, and such lock forth of door with speed : 

our potentates and grand seigneurs do clean contrary; for 
such as will not follow their humours, and soothe them up at 
every word, but gainsay their courses, in making remonstrance 
of that which is more profitable and expedient; such they 
disdain and will not vouchsafe them a good look. But for 
those wicked wretches, base-minded varlets, and cozening im- 
postors, who can curry favour, they not only set their doors 
wide open for such, and receive them into their houses, but they 
admit them also to conferences with their inward affections and 
the very secrets of their heart. Among whom you shall have 
one more plain perhaps and simple than the rest, who will say 
that it is not for him, neither is he worthy to deliberate and 
consult of so great affairs; marry, he could be content, and 
would take upon him, to be a poor servitor and minister, to 
execute whatsoever were concluded and enjoined him to do: 
another more crafty and cunning than his fellows, is willing 
enough to be used in counsel, where he will hear all doubts and 
perils that be cast; his eyebrows shall speak if they will, his 
head and eyes shall nod and make signs, but his tongue shall 
not speak a word: Say that the party whom he mindeth to 
flatter do utter his mind and what he thinketh good to do : then 

To Discern a Flatterer from a Friend 73 

will he cry out aloud and say, By Hercules, I swear it was at 
my tongue's end to have said as much, had you not prevented 
me and taken the word out of my mouth, I would have given 
you the very same counsel. For like as the mathematicians 
do affirm that the superficial and outward extremities, the lines 
also of the mathematical bodies, do of themselves and in their 
own nature neither bend nor stretch, nor yet move at all: for 
that they be intellectual only or imaginary, and not corporal, 
but according as the bodies do bow, reach or stir, so do they; 
so you shall ever find that a flatterer will pronounce, opine, 
think and be moved to anger, according as he seeth another 
before him. 

And therefore in this kind, most easy it is to observe the 
difference between a flatterer and a friend. But yet more 
evident you shall see it in the manner of doing service. For 
the offices and kindnesses which come from a friend are ever 
best, and (as living creatures) have their most proper virtues 
inwardly, carrying least in shew, and having no outward ostenta- 
tion of glorious pomp. And as it falleth out many times a 
physician cureth his patient, and sayeth little or nothing at all 
unto him, but doth the deed ere he be aware; even so, a good 
friend, whether he be present or departed from his friend, doth 
him good still, and taketh care for him when he full little knoweth 
of it. Such a one was Arcesilaus the philosopher, who beside 
many other kind parts which he shewed unto his friend Apelles, 
the painter of Chios, coming one day to visit him when he was 
sick, and perceiving how poor he was, went his way for that 
time: and when he returned again, brought twenty good 
drachms with him: and then, sitting close unto Apelles by his 
bedside: Here is nothing here (quoth he) I see well, but these 
four bare elements that Empedocles writeth of: 

Hot fire, cold water, sheer and soft : 
Gross earth, pure air that spreads aloft. 

But methinks you lie not at your ease; and with that he 
removed the pillow or bolster under his head, and so conveyed 
underneath it privily the small pieces of coin aforesaid. The 
old woman his nurse and keeper, when she made the bed, found 
this money: whereat she marvelled not a little, and told Apelles 
thereof, who laughing thereat: This is (quoth he) one of Arce- 
silaus his thievish casts. And for that it is a maxim in philo- 
sophy, that children are born like their parents, one Lacydes, 
a scholar of Arcesilaus aforesaid, being assistant with many 

74 Plutarch's Morals 

others to a friend of his named Cephisocrates, when he came 
to his trial in a case of treason against the state: in pleading 
of which cause, the accuser his adversary called for Cephi- 
socrates his ring, a pregnant evidence that made against him, 
which he had cleanly slipped from his ringer and let it fall to the 
ground; whereof the said Lacydes being advised, set his foot 
presently over it, and so kept it out of sight: for that the main 
proof of the matter in question lay upon that ring. Now after 
sentence passed on Cephisocrates his side, and that he was 
cleanly acquit of the crime, he went privately to every one of the 
judges for to give them thanks: One of them who (as it should 
seem) had seen what was done, willed him to thank Lacydes: 
and with that told how the case stood, and how it went with 
him as it did: but all this while Lacydes himself had not said 
a word to any creature. Thus I think verily that the gods 
themselves do bestow many benefits and favours upon men 
secretly, and whereof they be not aware; being of this nature 
to take joy and pleasure in bountifulness and doing good. 

Contrariwise, the office that a flatterer seemeth to perform, 
hath nothing in it that is just, nothing true, nothing simple, 
nothing liberal: only you shall see him sweat at it; you shall 
have him run up and down; keep a loud crying and a great ado, 
and set his countenance upon the matter, so as that he maketh 
right good semblance and shew that he doth especial service, 
taketh much care and pains about his business, and maketh 
haste to dispatch it: and much like are all his doings to a curious 
picture, which with strange colours, with broken plaits, wrinkles 
and angles, affecteth and striveth (as it were) to shew some 
lively resemblance. Moreover, much ado he maketh, and is 
troublesome in telling how he went to and fro, wandering here 
and there about the matter; also what a deal of care he took 
therein; how he incurred the evil will and displeasure of others; 
and a thousand hindrances, troubles and dangers, as besides 
he reckoneth up; insomuch as a man that heareth would say; 
All that ever he did was not worth so much as the twittle-twattle 
that he maketh. For surely a good turn that is upbraided in 
that wise, becometh burdensome, odious, and not thankfully 
accepted, but intolerable. 

In all the offices and services of a flatterer you shall find these 
upbraidings and shameful reports, that would make one blush 
to hear them, and those not only after the deed done, but at the 
very instant when he is about it. But instead hereof, a true 
friend, if it fall out so, that he be forced and urged to relate 

To Discern a Flatterer from a Friend 75 

what is done, maketh a plain report and narration in modest 
manner; but of himself he will never say word. After which 
sort did the Lacedaemonians in times past, when they had sent 
corn unto the Smyrnseans, which, in their extreme necessity, 
they craved at their hands: For at what time as the men of 
Smyrna magnified, and wonderfully extolled this liberality of 
theirs, they returned this answer again: This is not so great a 
matter that it should deserve so highly to be praised or wondered 
at : for (say they) gathered we have thus much, and made this 
supply of your necessities, only by cutting ourselves and our 
labouring beasts short of one day's pittance and allowance. 
Bounty in this wise performed is not only gentleman-like and 
liberal indeed, but also more welcome and acceptable to the 
receivers; inasmuch as they think it was no great damage, nor 
much out of their way that did it. Furthermore, not only this 
odious fashion of doing any service with such pain and trouble, 
or the readiness to make offer and promise so quickly, doth 
principally bewray the nature of a flatterer: but herein also 
much more he may be discovered : for that a friend is willingly 
employed in honest causes: but a flatterer in shameful and 
dishonest: as also in the divers ends that they purpose ; for the 
one seeketh to profit his friend, the other to please only. A 
friend, as Gorgias was wont to say, will never require that his 
friend should do him a pleasure, but in just things only: whiles 
a flatterer serveth his turn in many things that are unjust: For 
why ? 

To do good deeds friends should be joint, 

But not to sin in any point ; 

whereas he should endeavour to avert and withdraw him from 
that which is not decent, or seemly: Now if it happen that the 
other will not be persuaded by him, then were it not amiss to 
say unto him, as Antipater once answered Phocion ; You cannot 
have me to be a friend and flatterer too, (that is to say) a friend, 
and no friend. For one friend is to stand to another, and to 
assist him in doing, and not in misdoing, in consulting, and not 
in complotting and conspiring, in bearing witness with him of 
the truth, and not in circumventing any one by falsehood, yea, 
and to take part with him in suffering calamity, and not to bear 
him company in doing injury: For say that we may chance to 
be privy unto some shameful and reproachful deeds of our 
friend; yet we ought not to be party unto them therein, nor 
willing to aid them in any undecent action. For like as the 
Lacedaemonians being defeated in battle by King Antipater, 

7 6 

Plutarch's Morals 

and treating with him about the capitulations and articles of 
peace, made request unto him that he would impose upon 
them what conditions he would himself, were they never 
so chargeable and disadvantageous unto them, but in no wise 
enjoin them to do any shameful indignity; even so a faithful 
friend ought to be so disposed, that if his friend's occasions do 
require any matter of expense, danger, or travail, he shew 
himself at the first call and holding up of his finger ready to 
come, and cheerfully to take his part and undergo the same, 
without any shifting off, or allegation of any excuse whatsoever: 
marry, if there be never so little shame or dishonour that may 
accrue thereby, he shall then refuse and pray him to hold him 
excused ; he shall request pardon and desire to have leave for 
to be dismissed and depart in peace. 

The flatterer is quite contrary: for in painful, difficult and 
dangerous affairs, which require his help and assistance, he 
draweth back, and is ready to pluck his neck out of the collar: 
if (I say) in this case you seem for trial sake to knock (as it were 
upon a pot) to see whether he be right, he will not ring clear; 
but you shall see by the dead sound of his pretended and forged 
excuses, that he is full of cracks and flaws: contrariwise, in 
dishonest, vile, base, and shameful ministeries, I am for you 
(will he say), I am yours to command ; do with me what you 
will, tread me under your foot, abuse me at your pleasure : to be 
short, he will think nothing to be an ignominious indignity unto 
him. See you not the ape? good he is not to keep the house 
and to give warning of thieves, as dogs do; carry upon his back 
any burdens he cannot, like the horse; neither yet is he fit to 
draw or to plough the ground, as the ox doth; and therefore 
he beareth all kind of abuse and misusing, all wrongs, all un- 
happy sports and tricks that can be devised, serving only as an 
instrument of mockery, and a mere laughing-stock. Even so 
it fareth with a flatterer, being not meet to plead at the bar for 
a friend, to assist him in counsel, to lay his hand to his purse 
and supply his wants that way, nor to fight as his champion 
in maintenance of his quarrel, as one that can away with no 
labour, no painstaking, or serious employment; and in one 
word, fit for nothing that good is: marry, in such affairs as 
may be done under the arm, that is to say, which be close, 
secret and filthy services, he is the forwardest man in the world, 
and maketh no excuses. A trusty courier he is between, in love 
matters; in finding favour with a bawd and bringing a wench 
or harlot to your bed, he is excellent, and hath a marvellous 

To Discern a Flatterer from a Friend 77 

gift ; to make the shot, and clear the reckoning of any sumptuous 
feast or banquet he is ready and perfect; in providing for a 
great dinner or supper, and setting the same forth accordingly, 
he is nothing slow, but nimble enough. To give entertainment 
unto concubines he is very handsome, obsequious and service- 
able ; if one bid him to speak audaciously and malapertly against 
a father-in-law, a guardian, tutor, or any such, or to put away 
his true espoused wife, like as he seeth his good master do before 
him, he is without all shame and mercy: so that even herein 
also it is no hard matter to see what kind of man he is, and 
how much he differeth from a true friend: For command him 
to commit what villany and wickedness you will, ready he is 
to execute the same, and so he may gratify and pleasure you 
that set him on work, he careth not to do any injury to himself. 
There is, moreover, another means not of the least conse- 
quence, whereby a man may know how much a flatterer differeth 
from a friend indeed, namely, by his disposition and behaviour 
towards his other friends : for a true friend findeth contentment 
in nothing so much as to love many, and likewise to be loved of 
many; and herein he laboureth especially with his friend to 
procure himself many others to love and honour him : for being 
of this opinion, that among good friends all things are common, 
he thinketh that nothing ought to be more common than friends 
themselves. But the supposed, false, and counterfeit friend, 
being privy to his own conscience, that he doth great injury 
to true amity and friendship, which he doth corrupt in manner 
of a base piece of money: as he is by nature envious, so he 
exerciseth that envy of his upon such as be like himself, striving 
with a kind of emulation to surpass them in scurrile speech, 
giving of taunts and garrulity, but before such as he knoweth 
better than himself, he trembleth and is afraid, and in truth 
dare not come near nor shew his face to such an one, no more 
(I assure you) than a footman to go and keep pace (according 
to the proverb) with a Lydian chariot, or rather, as Simonides 

Laid to fine gold tried clean from dross, 

He hath not so much as lead so gross. 

Being compared with true, sound, and grave friendship, which 
(as they say) will endure the hammer, he cannot choose but 
find himself to be but light, falsified, and deceitful: seeing then 
that he must needs be detected and known for such an one as 
he is, what doth he, think you? Surely he playeth like an 
unskilful painter, who had painted certain cocks, but very 

jS Plutarch's Morals 

badly: For like as he gave commandment to his boy for to 
keep away natural and living cocks, indeed, far enough off from 
his pictures; so a flatterer will do what he can to chase away 
true friends, and not suffer them to approach near; or if he 
be not able so to do, then openly and in public place he will 
seem to curry favour with them, to honour and admire them, 
as far better than himself; but secretly, underhand, and behind 
their backs, he will not let to raise some privy calumniations, and 
sow slanderous reports tending to their discredit: but if he see 
that by such privy girds and pinches which will fret and gall 
the sore, he cannot at the first bring his purpose about : yet he 
remembreth full well and observeth the saying of Medius. 

This Medius was the chief captain of the troupe, or the master 
rather of the quire (if I may so say) of all those flatterers that 
used the court of King Alexander the Great, and came about his 
person; the principal sophister also that opposed himself and 
banded against all good men, and never rested to slander and 
backbite them : This rule and lesson he taught his scholars and 
quiristers that were under his hand, To cast out slanders boldly, 
and not to spare, therewith to bite others: For (quoth he) 
although the sore may heal up again, yet the scar will remain 
and be ever seen. By these cicatrices and scars of false im- 
putations, or (to speak more properly and truly) by such gan- 
grenes and cankerous ulcers as these, Alexander the king being 
corroded and eaten, did to death Callisthenes, Parmenion, and 
Philotas, his fast and faithful friends: but to such as Agnon, 
Bagoas, Agesias and Demetrius were, he abandoned and gave 
himself wholly to be supplanted and overthrown at their 
pleasure, whiles he was by them adored, adorned, arrayed 
gorgeously with rich robes, and set out like a barbarian image, 
statue or idol. Lo, what is the force and power of flattery to 
win grace and favour; and namely in those who would be 
reputed the mightiest monarches and greatest potentates of the 
world, it beareth most sway: For such are persuaded, and 
desirous also, that the best things should be in themselves ; and 
this is it that giveth both credit and also boldness unto a 
flatterer. True it is, I must confess, that the highest places and 
forts situate upon the loftiest mounts, are least accessible and 
most hard to be gained by those who would surprise and force 
them; but where there is an high spirit and haughty mind by 
nature, not guided by sound judgment of reason, but lifted 
up with the favours of fortune, or nobility of birth, it is the 
easiest matter in the world even for most base and vile persons 

To Discern a Flatterer from a Friend 79 

to conquer such, and the avenues to them lie ready and open, 
to give the vantage of easiest entrance. 

And therefore, as in the beginning of this treatise I gave 
warning; so now I admonish the readers again in this place; 
That every man would labour and strive with himself to root 
out that self-love and overweening that they have of their own 
good parts and worthiness: For this is it that doth flatter us 
within, and possesseth our minds beforehand, whereby we are 
exposed and lie more open unto flatterers that are without, 
finding us thus prepared already for to work upon. But if we 
would obey the god Apollo, and by acknowledging how much 
in all things we ought to esteem that oracle of his, which com- 
mandeth us to know ourselves, search into our own nature, 
and examine withal our nouriture and education : when we find 
there an infinite number of defects, and many vanities, imper- 
fections and faults, mixed untowardly in our words, deeds, 
thoughts and passions, we would not so easily suffer these 
flatterers to tread us under their feet, and make a bridge of us 
as they do at their pleasure. 

King Alexander the Great was wont to say, that two things 
there were especially which moved him to have less belief in 
them who saluted and greeted him by the name of a god : The 
one was sleep, and the other the use of Venus: in both which 
he found that he was worse than himself, that is to say, subject 
to infirmities and passions more than in anything else: But if 
we would look into ourselves and ever and anon consider how 
many gross vices, troublesome passions, imperfections and 
defects we have, surely we shall find that we stood in great need, 
not of a false friend to flatter us in our follies, and to praise 
and extol us; but rather of one that would frankly find fault 
with our doings, and reprove us in those vices that each one 
privately and in particular doth commit. But very few there 
be among many others, who dare freely and plainly speak unto 
their friends, but rather soothe them up and seek to please them 
in everything: And even in those, as few as they be, hardly 
shall you find any that know how to do it well, but for the most 
part they think that they speak freely, when they do nothing 
but reprove, reproach and rail. 

Howbeit, this liberty of speech whereof I speak is of the nature 
of a medicine, which if it be not given in time convenient and as 
it ought to be, besides that it doth no good at all, it troubleth 
the body, worketh grievance, and instead of a remedy proveth 
to be a mischief: For even so, he that doth reprehend and find 

80 Plutarch's Morals 

fault unseasonably, bringeth forth the like effect with pain as 
a flatterer doth with pleasure. For men are apt to receive hurt 
and damage, not only by overmuch praise; but also by inor- 
dinate blame when it is out of due time : for it is the only thing 
that of all others maketh them soonest to turn aside unto 
flatterers, and to be most easily surprised by them; namely, 
when from those things that stand most opposite and highest 
against them, they turn aside like water, and run down those 
ways that be more low, easy, and hollow. In which regard it 
behoveth that this liberty in fault-finding be tempered with a 
certain amiable affection, and accompanied with the judgment 
of reason, which may take away the excessive vehemency and 
force of sharp words, like the over-bright shining of some 
glittering light, and for fear lest their friends being dazzled as 
it were and frighted with the flashing beams of their rebukes, 
seeing themselves so reproved for each thing, and blamed every 
while, may take such a grief and thought thereupon, that for 
sorrow they be ready to fly unto the shadow of some flatterer, 
and turn toward that which will not trouble them at all. 
For we must avoid all vice (0 Philopappus), and seek to 
correct the same by the means of virtue (and not by another 
vice contrary unto it) as some do ; who for to shun foolish and 
rustical bashfulness, grow to be overbold and impudent; for to 
eschew rude incivility, fall to be ridiculous jesters and pleasants; 
and then they think to be farthest off from cowardice and 
effeminate tenderness, when they come nearest to extreme 
audacity and boasting bravery. Others there be who to prove 
themselves not to be superstitious, become mere atheists; and 
because they would not be thought and reputed idiots and fools, 
prove artificial coney-catchers. And surely in redressing the 
enormities of their manners, they do as much as those who, for 
want of knowledge and skill to set a piece of wood straight that 
twineth and lieth crooked one way, do curb and bend it as 
much another way. 

But the most shameful means to avoid and shun the suspicion 
of a flatterer, is to make a man's self odious and troublesome 
without profit; and a very rude and rustical fashion this is, of 
seeking to win favour, and that with savour of no learning, skill, 
and civility, to become unpleasant, harsh, and sour to a friend, 
for to shun that other extreme, which in friendship seemeth to 
be base and servile ; which is as much as if a freed slave newly 
franchised should in a comedy think that he could not use and 
enjoy his liberty of speech, unless he might be allowed licentiously 

To Discern a Flatterer from a Friend 81 

to accuse another without controlment. Considering, then, that 
it is a foul thing to fall to flattery, in studying to please, as also 
for the avoiding of flattery, by immoderate liberty of speech, 
to corrupt and mar, as well the grace of amity and winning love, 
as the care of remedying and reforming that which is amiss: 
and seeing that we ought to avoid both the one and the other: 
and as in all things else, so free speaking is to have the perfec- 
tion from a mean and mediocrity; reason would, and by order 
it were requisite, that toward the end of this treatise we should 
add somewhat in manner of a corollary and complement, as 
touching that point. 

Forasmuch as therefore we see that this liberty of language 
and reprehension hath many vices following it, which do much 
hurt: let us assay to take them away one after another, and 
begin first with blind self-love and private regards: where we 
ought especially to take heed that we be not seen to do anything 
for our own interest, and in respect of ourselves; and namely, 
that we seem not, for wrong that we have received ourselves, 
or upon any grief of our own, to reproach, upbraid, or revile 
other men: for they will never take it as done for any love or 
goodwill that we bear unto them, but rather upon some dis- 
contentment and heart-burning that we have, when they see 
that our speech tendeth unto a matter wherein we are interested 
ourselves; neither will they repute our words spoken by way 
of admonition unto them, but rather interpret them as a com- 
plaint of them. For surely the liberty of speech whereof we 
treat, as it respecteth the welfare of our friend, so it is grave 
and venerable; whereas complaints favour rather of self-love 
and a base mind. Hereupon it is that we reverence, honour, 
and admire those who for our good deliver their minds frankly 
unto us: contrariwise, we are so bold as to accuse, challenge 
and charge reciprocally, yea, and contemn those that make 
complaints of us. Thus we read in Homer, that Agamemnon, 
who could not bear and endure Achilles, when he seemed to tell 
him his mind after a moderate manner; but he was well enough 
content to abide and suffer Ulysses, who touched him near, 
and bitterly rebuked him in this wise : 

Ah wretch, would God some abject host 

Beside us, by your hand 
Conducted were ; so that in field 

You did not us command. 

As sharp a check as this was, yet being delivered by a wise 
man, proceeding from a careful mind, and tendering the good 

82 Plutarch's Morals 

of the commonweal, he gave place thereto, and kicked not 
again: for this Ulysses had no private matter nor particular 
quarrel against him, but spake frankly for the benefit of all 
Greece: whereas Achilles seemed to be offended and displeased 
with him principally, for some private matter between them 
twain. And even Achilles also himself, although he was never 
known for to be a man of a gentle nature and of a mild spirit, 

But rather of a stomach fell, 

And one who would accuse 
A guiltless person for no cause, 

And him full soon abuse, 

endured Patroclus patiently, and gave him not a word again, 
notwithstanding he taunted and took him up in this wise: 

Thou merciless and cruel wretch, 

Sir Peleus, valiant knight 
Was never (sure) thy father true, 

Nor yet dame Thetis bright 
Thy mother kind: but sea so green, 

Or rocks so steep and hard 
Thee bare (thy heart of pity hath 

So small or no regard). 

For like as Hyperides the orator required the Athenians (who 
complained that his orations were bitter) to consider of him, 
not only whether he were sharp and eager simply, but whether 
he were so upon no cause, nor taking any fee; even so, the 
admonition and reprehension of a friend, being sincere and 
cleansed pure from all private affection, ought to be reverenced : 
it carrieth (I say) authority with it, and no exceptions can well 
be taken, nor a man dare lift up an eye against it: in such sort, 
as if it appear that he who chideth freely, and blameth his friend, 
doth let pass and reject all those faults which he hath com- 
mitted against him, and maketh no mention thereof, but 
toucheth those errors and misdemeanors only which concern 
others, and then spare him not, but pierce and bite to the quick: 
the vehemency of such free speech is invincible, and cannot be 
challenged, for the mildness and goodwill of the chastiser doth 
fortify the austerity and bitterness of the chastisement. Well 
therefore it was said in old time ; That whensoever we are angry, 
or at some jar and variance with our friends, then most of all 
we ought to have an eye unto their good, and to study how to 
do somewhat that is either profitable unto them, or honourable 
for them. 

And no less material is this also to the maintenance of friend- 
ship, if they that think themselves to be despised and not well 

To Discern a Flatterer from a Friend 83 

regarded of their friends, do put them in mind, and tell them 
frankly of others, who are neglected by them, and not accounted 
of as they should be. Thus dealt Plato with Denys, at what 
time he was in disgrace, and saw how he made no reckoning 
at all of him: For he came unto the tyrant upon a time, and 
requested that he might have a day of audience and leave to 
confer with him: Denys granted his request, supposing verily 
that Plato had a purpose to complain and expostulate with him 
in his own behalf, and thereupon to discourse with him at 
large : But Plato reasoned and debated the matter with him in 
this manner: Sir (quoth he), Denys, if you were advertised 
and knew that some enemy or evil wilier of yours were arrived 
and landed in Sicily, with a full intention to do you some dis- 
pleasure, although he had no opportunity or means to execute 
and effect the same, would you let him sail away again and 
depart from Sicily with impunity, and before he were talked 
withal? I trow not, Plato (quoth Denys), but I would look 
to him well enough for that: For we ought to hate and punish 
not the actions only, but th° very purposes and intentions also 
of enemies. But how and if (quoth Plato again) on the contrary 
side ; some other being expressly and of purpose come for mere 
love and affection that he beareth unto you, and fully minded 
to do you some pleasure, or to advise you for your good, you 
will give him neither time nor opportunity therefore; is it meet 
(think you) that he should be thus unthankfully dealt withal, 
or hardly entreated at your hands? With that Dionysius was 
somewhat moved, and demanded who that might be ? ^Eschines 
(quoth Plato) is he, a man fair conditioned, and of as honest 
carriage and behaviour as any one that ever came out of 
Socrates' school, or daily and familiarly conversed with him; 
sufficient and able by his eloquence and pithy speech to reform 
the manners of those with whom he keepeth company: This 
iEschines (I say) having taken a long voyage over sea and 
arrived here, intending for to confer with you philosophically, 
is nothing regarded, nor set by at all. These words touched 
Denys so to the very quick, that presently he not only took Plato 
in his arms, embracing him most lovingly, and yielding him 
great thanks for that kindness, and highly admiring his mag- 
nanimity; but also from that time forward, entreated iEschines 
right courteously, and did him all the honour that he could. 

Secondly, this liberty of speech which now is in hand, we 
ought to clear and purge clean from all contumelious and injurious 
words, from laughter, scoffs, and scurrile taunts, which are the 

8 4 

Plutarch's Morals 

hurtful and unwholesome sauces (as I may say) wherewith many 
use to season their free language. For like as a chirurgeon, 
when he maketh incision and cutteth the flesh of his patient, 
had need to use great dexterity, to have a nimble hand and an 
even; yea, and everything neat and fine belonging to this work 
and operation of his: as for all dancing, gesticulations besides 
of his fingers, toyish motions, and superfluous agitation thereof, 
to shew the agility of his hand, he is to forbear for that time: 
So this liberty of speech unto a friend doth admit well a certain 
kind of elegancy and civility, provided always that the grace 
thereof retain still a decent and comely gravity, whereas if it 
chance to have audacious bravery, saucy impurity and inso- 
lency, to the hurt or hindrance of credit, it is utterly marred 
and looseth all authority. 

And therefore it was not an unproper and unelegant speech, 
wherewith a musician upon a time stopped King Philip's mouth 
that he had not a word to say again: For when he was about 
to have disputed and contested against the said minstrel, as 
touching good fingering, and the s^iind of the several strings of 
his instrument: Oh, sir (quoth he), God forbid that ever you 
should fall to so low an estate as to be more cunning in these 
matters than I. But contrariwise, Epicharmus spake not so 
aptly and to the purpose in this behalf: For when King Hiero, 
who a little before had put to death some of his familiar acquaint- 
ance, invited him not many days after to supper. Yea, marry, 
sir, but the other day when you sacrificed, you bade not your 
friends to the feast. And as badly answered Antiphon, who 
upon a time when there was some question before Denys the 
Tyrant, what was the best kind of brass : Marry, that (quoth he) 
whereof the Athenians made the statues of Harmodius and 
Aristogiton. Such speeches as these are tart and biting, and 
no good can come thereof, neither hath that scurrility and 
scoffing manner any delight, but a kind of intemperance it is 
of the tongue, mingled with a certain maliciousness of mind, 
implying a will to do hurt and injury, and shewing plain enmity, 
which as many as use, work their own mischief and destruction, 
dancing (as the proverb saith) a dance untowardly about a 
pit's brink, or jesting with edged tools. For surely it cost 
Antiphon his life, who was put to death by the said Denys. 
And Timagenes lost for ever the favour and friendship of 
Augustus Caesar, not for any frank speech and broad language 
that ever he used against him; but only because he had taken 
up a foolish fashion at every feast or banquet, whereunto the 

To Discern a Flatterer from a Friend 85 

jmperor invited him, and whensoever he walked with him, 

tftsoons and to no purpose he would come out with these verses 


For naught else but to make some sport 
Among the Greeks he did resort ; 

pretending that the cause of that favour which he had with the 
emperor, was the grace and gift that he had in flouting and 
reviling others: and even the very comical poets in old time, 
exhibited and represented to the theatres many grave, austere, 
and serious remonstrances, and those pertaining to policy and 
government of state: but there be scurrile speeches inter- 
mingled among, for to move laughter, which (as one unsavoury 
dish of meat among many other good viands) mar all their 
liberty of speech and the benefit thereof; so as it is vain and 
doth no good at all : And even so the authors and actors of such 
broad jests get nothing thereby but an opinion and imputation 
of a malicious disposition and impure scurrility: and to the 
hearers there accrueth no good nor profit at all. 

At other times and in other places, I hold well with it, and 
grant that to jest with friends and move laughter is tolerable 
enough: but surely the liberty of speech then ought to be 
serious and modest, shewing a good intention without any 
purpose to gall or sting. And if it do concern weighty affairs 
indeed, let the words be so set and couched, the affection so 
appear, the countenance be so composed, and the gesture so 
ordered, and the voice so tuned, that all concurring together 
may win credit to the speech, and be effectual to move. But 
as in all things else, fit opportunity overslipt and neglected doth 
much hurt; so especially it is the occasion that the fruit of free 
speech is utterly lost, in case it be omitted and forgotten. More- 
over this is evident, that we must take heed how we speak 
broad at a table where friends be met together to drink wine 
liberally and to make good cheer: for he that amid pleasant 
discourses and merry talk moveth a speech that causeth bending 
and knitting of brows, or others, maketh men to frown and be 
frowning, he doth as much as overcast fair weather with a black 
and dark cloud ; opposing himself unto that god Lyaeus, 1 who 
by good right hath that name, as Pindarus the poet saith : 

For that the cord he doth untie 
Of cares that breed anxiety. 

Besides, this neglect of opportunity bringeth with it great 
1 Some read Lydius. 

86 Plutarch's Morals 

danger; for that our minds and spirits, kindled once with wine, 
are easy enflamed with choler; yea, and oftentimes it falleth 
out, that a man after he hath taken his drink well, when he 
thinketh but to use his freedom of tongue for to give some 
wholesome advertisement and admonition, ministreth occasion 
of great enmity. And to say all in few words, it is not the part 
of a generous, confident, and resolute heart, but rather of a 
craven kind and unmanly, to forbear plain speech when men 
are sober, and to keep a-barking at the board, like unto those 
cowardly cur dogs who never snarl but about a bone under the 
table. And now of this point, needless it is to discourse any 

But forasmuch as many men neither will nor dare control 
and reform their friends when they do amiss, so long as they 
be in prosperity; as being of opinion that such admonition can- 
not have access nor reach into a fortunate state that standeth 
upright; and yet the same persons when men are falling, are 
ready to lay them along, and being once down, to make a foot- 
ball of them, or tread them under feet, or else keep them so 
when they be once under the hatches, giving their liberty of 
speech full scope to run over them all at once ; as a breakwater 
which having been kept up perforce against the nature and 
course thereof, is now let go, and the flood-gates drawn up; 
rejoicing at his change and infortunity of theirs, in regard as 
well of their pride and arrogancy, who before disdained and 
despised them; as also of themselves, who are but in mean 
and low estate: it were not impertinent to this place for to 
discourse a little of this matter, and to answer that verse of 

When fortune doth upon men smile, 
What need have they of friends the while ? 

Namely, that even then when as they seem to have fortune at 
command, they stand in most necessity, and ought to have their 
friends about them, to pluck down their plumes and bring under 
their haughtiness of heart, occasioned by prosperity: for few 
there be who with their outward felicity continue wise and sober 
in mind, breaking not forth into insolence; yea, and many 
there are who have need of wit, discretion and reason to be put 
into them from without, to abate and depress them being set 
agog and puffed up with the favours of fortune: But say that 
the divine power do change and turn about, and overthrow 
their state, or clip their wings and diminish their greatness and 
authority, then these calamities of themselves are scourges 

To Discern a Flatterer from a Friend 87 

sufficient, putting them in mind of their errors, and working 
repentance: and then in such distress there is no use at all 
either of friends to speak unto them frankly, or of pinching 
and biting speeches, to molest and trouble them, but to say a 
truth, in these mutations 

It greatly doth content our minds 
To see the face of pleasant friends, 

who may yield consolation, comfort and strength to a distressed 
heart, like as Xenophon doth write, that in battles and the 
greatest extremities of danger, the amiable visage and cheerful 
countenance of Clearchus being once seen of the soldiers, 
encouraged them much more to play the men and fight lustily: 
whereas he that useth unto a man distressed, such plain speech 
as may gall and bite him more, doth as much as one who unto 
a troubled and inflamed eye applieth some quick eye-salve or 
sharp drug that is proper for to clear the sight: by which means 
he cureth not the infirmity beforesaid, neither doth he mitigate 
or allay the pain, but unto sorrow and grief of mind already 
addeth anger moreover, and doth exasperate a wounded heart. 
And verily so long as a man is in the latitude of health, he 
is not so testy, froward, and impatient, but that he will in some 
sort give ear unto his friend, and think him neither rough nor 
altogether rude and uncivil, in case he tell him of his looseness 
of life, how he is given too much either unto women or wine; 
or if he find fault with his idleness and sitting still, or contrari- 
wise his excessive exercise; if he reprove him for haunting 
so often the bains or hot-houses, and never lying out of them, 
or blame him for gormandise and belly cheer, or eating at 
undue hours. But if he be once sick, then it is a death unto 
him and a grief insupportable, which doth aggravate his malady, 
to have one at his bedside sounding ever in his ears; See what 
comes of your drunkenness, your idleness, your surfeiting and 
gluttony, your wenching and lechery, these are the causes of 
your disease. But what will the sick man say again: Away, 
good sir, with these unseasonable words of yours: you trouble 
me much, and do me no good iwis: I am about making my 
last will and testament; my physicians are busy preparing and 
tempering a potion of scammony, or a drink of castoreum for me : 
and you come preaching unto me with your philosophical reasons 
and admonitions to chastise me: I have no need of them now, 
nor of such friends as you. Semblably it fareth with those 
who are fallen to decay and be down the wind ; for capable they 

88 Plutarch's Morals 

be not of sententious saws; they have no need as the case now 
stands of free reprehensions: then lenity and gentle usage, aid 
and comfort are more meet for them. For even so, kind nurses 
when their little babes and infants have caught a fall, run not 
by and by to rate or chide them, but to take them up, wash and 
make them clean where they were berayed, and to still them by 
all means that they can; afterwards they rebuke and chastise 
them for looking no better to their feet. 

It is reported of Demetrius the Phalerian, when being banished 
out of his country, he lived at Thebes in mean estate and very 
obscurely, that at the first he was not well pleased to see Crates 
the philosopher, who came to visit him, as looking ever when he 
would begin with some rough words unto him, according to that 
liberty of speech which those cynic philosophers then used : but 
when he heard Crates once speak kindly unto him, and discours- 
ing after a mild manner of the state of his banishment : namely, 
that there was no misery fallen unto him by that means, nor 
any calamity at all, for which he should vex and torment himself; 
but rather that he had cause to rejoice, in that he was sequestered 
and delivered from the charge and management of such affairs 
as were ticklish, mutable and dangerous; and withal exhorting 
him to pluck up his heart, and be of good cheer, yea, and repose 
all his comfort in his own self and a clear conscience. Then 
Demetrius being more lightsome, and taking better courage, 
turned to his friends and said, Shame take those affairs and 
businesses; out upon those troublesome and restless occupa- 
tions, which have kept me from the knowledge and acquaintance 
of such a worthy man : For 

If men be in distress and grief, 
Sweet words of friends do bring relief: 
But foolish sots in all their actions, 
Have need eftsoons of sharp corrections. 

And verily this is the manner of generous and gentle friends; 
but other base-minded and abject fellows, who flatter and fawn 
whiles fortune doth smile; like unto old ruptures, spasms, and 
cramps (as Demosthenes saith) do then stir and shew them- 
selves, when any new accident happeneth unto the body, so 
they also stick close to every change and alteration of fortune, 
as being glad thereof, and taking pleasure and contentment 
therein. For, say that a man afflicted were to be put in mind 
of his fault and misgovernment of himself, by reason that he 
hath taken lewd courses and followed ill counsel, and so fallen 

To Discern a Flatterer from a Friend 89 

ipto this or that inconvenience, it were sufficient to say thus 
unto him: 

You never took by mine advice this course, 
Against the same how oft did I discourse? 

In what cases and occurrences, then, ought a friend to be 
earnest and vehement? and when is he to use his liberty of 
speech, and extend it to the full? even then, when occasion is 
offered, and the time serveth best to repress excessive pleasure, 
to restrain unbridled choler, to refrain intolerable pride and 
insolency, to stay insatiable avarice, or to stand against any 
foolish habitude and inconsiderate motion. Thus Solon spake 
freely unto King Crcesus, when he saw how he was clean cor- 
rupted, and grown beyond all measure arrogant upon the opinion 
that he had of his felicity in this world, which was uncertain, 
advertising him to look unto the end. Thus Socrates clipped 
the wings of Alcibiades, and by convincing his vice and error, 
caused him to weep bitterly, and altered quite the disposition of 
his heart. Such were the remonstrances and admonitions of 
Cyrus to Cyaxares, and of Plato to Dion, even when he was in 
his greatest ruff, in the very height of his glory: when (I say) 
all men's eyes were upon him, for his worthy acts and great 
success in all affairs, willing him even then to take heed and 
beware of arrogancy and self-conceit, as being the vice that 
dwelleth in the same house together with solitude (that is to 
say) which maketh a man to live apart from the whole world. 
And to the same effect wrote Speusippus also unto him, when 
he bade him look to himself, and not take a pride and presume 
much upon this; That there was no talk among women and 
children but of him; rather that he should have a care so to 
adorn Sicily with religion and piety towards the gods, with 
justice and good laws in regard of men, that the school of the 
academy might have honour and credit by him. Contrariwise, 
Euctseus and Eulseus, two minions and favourites of King 
Perseus, who followed his vein and pleased his humour in all 
things, like other courtiers of his, all the while that he flourished, 
and so long as the world went on his side: but after he had lost 
the field in a battle against the Romans, fought near the city 
Pydna, and was fled, they let fly at him gross terms and reproach- 
ful speeches, bitterly laying to his charge all the misdemeanours 
and faults that he had before committed, casting in his dish 
those persons whom he had evil intreated or despised; which 
they ceased not to do so long, until the man (partly for sorrow, 

90 Plutarch's Morals 

and partly for anger) was so moved, that he stabbed them both 
with his dagger, and slew them in the place. 

Thus much in general may suffice to determine and define 
as touching the opportunity of free speech to friends: mean- 
while a faithful and careful friend must not reject such occasions 
as many times are presented unto him by them, but to take 
hold thereof quickly, and make good use of them: for other- 
whiles it falleth out, that a demand or question asked, a narra- 
tion related, a reprehension or commendation of like things in 
other persons, open the door and make way for us to enter, and 
giveth us leave to speak frankly. After this manner it is said 
that Demaratus took his vantage to utter his mind freely: who 
coming upon a time from Corinth to Macedonia, whenas King 
Philip was in some terms of dissension with his wife and son, 
was friendly received by Philip and bidden kindly welcome. 
Now after salutations and other compliments passed between, 
the king asked him whether the Greeks were at accord and 
unity one with another? Demaratus, as he was a friend very 
inward with him, and one that loved him heartily, answered 
thus; It becometh you well indeed, sir, to enquire of the concord 
and agreement between the Athenians and the Peloponnesians, 
when in the meanwhile you suffer your own house to be full of 
domestical quarrels and debates. Well did Diogenes likewise, 
who being come into the camp of King Philip, when he had an 
expedition or journey against the Greeks, was taken and brought 
before the king, who not knowing what he was, demanded of 
him if he were not a spy: Yes, marry (quoth he), and come I 
am to spy out your inconsiderate folly (0 Philip) and want of 
forecast, who being not urged nor compelled by any man, are 
come thus far to hazard in one hour the state of your kingdom 
and your own life, and to lay all upon the chance and cast of 
a die. 

But some man peradventure will say, This was a speech some- 
what with the sharpest, and too much biting. Moreover, 
another fit time and occasion there is of admonition, when those 
whom we mind to reprove, having been reproached and taunted 
already by others for some faults which they committed, are 
become submiss and cast down to our hands. Which oppor- 
tunity a wise and skilful friend will not omit, but make especial 
good use of: namely, by seeming in open place to check those 
that thus have slandered them, yea, and to repulse and put 
back such opprobrious imputations, but privately he will take 
his friend apart by himself, and put him in mind to live more 

To Discern a Flatterer from a Friend 91 

warily and give no such offence, if for no other thing else; yet 
because his enemies should not take vantage, and bear them- 
selves insolently against him: For how shall they be able to 
open their mouths against you, and what mis word can they 
have to say unto you, if you would leave these things and cast 
them behind you, for which you hear ill and are grown to some 
obloquy? In this sort if the matter be handled, all the offence 
that was taken shall light upon the head of the first slanderer, 
and the profit shall be attributed unto the other that gave the 
friendly advertisement, and he shall go away with all the 

Some there be, moreover, who after a more cleanly and fine 
manner in speaking of others, admonish their own familiar 
friends : for they will accuse strangers in their hearing for those 
faults which they know them to commit, and by this means 
reclaim them from the same. Thus Ammonius, our master, 
perceiving when he gave lecture in the afternoon that some of 
us his scholars had taken a larger dinner, and eaten more than 
was meet for students, commanded a servant of his affranchised 
to take up his own son and to beat him, and why so? He 
cannot forsooth make his dinner (quoth he) but he must have 
some vinegar to his meat. And in saying so, he cast his eye 
upon us, in such sort that as many as were culpable took them- 
selves to be rebuked, and thought that he meant them. 

Furthermore, this good regard would be observed, that we 
never use this fashion of free speech, and reproving our friend 
in the presence of many persons, but we must remember that 
which befel unto Plato: for when upon a time Socrates in a 
disputation held at the table inveighed somewhat too bitterly 
against one of his familiars before them all: Had it not been 
better (quoth Plato) to have told him of this privately, but thus 
to shame him before all this company ? But Socrates taking him 
presently therewith, And you also might have done better to have 
said this to myself, when you had found me alone. Pythagoras 
by report gave such hard terms by way of reproof to one of 
his scholars and acquaintance, in the hearing of many, that the 
young man for very grief of heart was weary of his life and 
hanged himself. But never would Pythagoras after to his 
dying day reprove or admonish any man, if another were in 

And to say a truth, as well the detection as the correction of 
a sin ought to be secret, and not in public place, like as the dis- 
covery and cure also of some filthy and foul disease: it must 

92 Plutarch's Morals 

not, I say, be done in the view of the world (as if some shew 
or pomp were to be exhibited unto the people) with calling 
witnesses or spectators thereto. For it is not the part of a 
friend, but a trick of some sophister, to seek for glory in other 
men's faults, and affect outward shew and vain ostentation in 
the presence of others: much like to these mountebank chirur- 
geons, who for to have the greater practice, make shew of their 
cunning casts and operations of their art in public theatres, 
with many gesticulations of their handiwork. Moreover, besides 
that there should no infamy grow to him that is reproved (which 
indeed is not to be allowed in any cure or remedy), there ought 
also to be some regard had of the nature of vice and sin, which 
for the most part of itself is opinionative, contentious, stubborn, 
and apt to stand to it, and make means of defence. For as 
Euripides saith, 

We daily see not only wanton love 

Doth press the more when one doth it reprove. 

But any vice whatsoever it be and every imperfection, if a man 
do reprove it in public place before many, and spare not at all, 
putteth on the nature of impudence and turneth to be shame- 
less: like as therefore Plato giveth a precept, that elder folk, 
if they would imprint shame and grace in their young children, 
ought themselves first to shew shamefast behaviour among 
them ; even so, the modest and bashful liberty of speech which 
one friend useth, doth strike also a great shame in another. 
Also to come and approach by little and little unto one that 
offendeth, and after a doubting manner with a kind of fear to 
touch him, is the next way to undermine the vice that he is prone 
and given unto, whiles he cannot choose but be modestly dis- 
posed, who is so modestly and gently entreated. And therefore 
it would be always very good in those reprehensions to observe 
what he did, who in like case reproving a friend, 

Held head full close unto his ear, 
That no man else but he might hear. 

But less seemly and convenient it is for to discover the fault 
of the husband before his wife; of a father in the presence of 
his sons; of a lover before his love; or of a schoolmaster in 
the hearing of his scholars: that were enough to put them 
beside their right wits for anger and grief when they shall see 
themselves checked and discredited before those of whom they 
desire to be best esteemed. 
And verily of this mind I am, that it was not the wine so 

To Discern a Flatterer from a Friend 93 

much that set King Alexander in such a chafe and rage against 
Clitus when he reproved him, as for that he did it in the presence 
and hearing of so many. Aristomenes also, the master and 
tutor of King Ptolemaeus, for that in the sight of an ambassador 
he awaked him out of a sleep, and willed him to give ear unto 
the embassage that was delivered, ministered unto his evil- 
willers and the flatterers about the court great vantage, who there- 
upon took occasion to seem discontented in the king's behalf, 
and thus to say: What if after so many travels that your 
majesty doth undergo, and your long watching for our sakes, 
some sleep do overtake you otherwhiles; our part it were to 
tell you of it privately, and not thus rudely to lay hand as it 
were upon your person in the presence of so many men. Where- 
upon Ptolemaeus being moved at these suggestions, sent unto 
the man a cup of poison, with commandment that he should 
drink it off. Aristophanes also casteth this in Cleon his teeth: 

For that when strangers were in place 
The town with terms he did disgrace, 

and thereby provoke the Athenians and bring their high dis- 
pleasure upon him. And therefore this regard would be had 
especially above all others, that when we would use our liberty 
of speech, we do it not by way of ostentation in a vainglory to 
be popular, and to get applause, but only with an intention to 
profit and do good, yea and to cure some infirmity thereby. 

Over and besides that which Thucydides reporteth of the 
Corinthians, how they gave out of themselves and not unfitly, 
that it belonged unto them, and meet men they were to reprove 
others; the same ought they to have in them that will take 
upon them to be correctors of other persons. For like as 
Lysander answered to a certain Megarian who put himself 
forward in an assembly of associates and allies to speak frankly 
for the liberty of Greece: These words of yours (my friend) 
would beseem to have been spoken by some puissant state or 
city; even so it may be said to every one that will seem freely 
to reprehend another, that he had need himself to be in manners 
well reformed. And this most truly ought to be inferred upon 
all those that will seem to chastise and correct others, namely, 
to be wiser and of better government than the rest: for thus 
Plato protested that he reformed Speusippus by example of his 
own life: and Xenocrates likewise casting but his eye upon 
Polemon, who was come into his school like a ruffian, by his very 
look only reclaimed him from his loose life: whereas on the 

94 Plutarch's Morals 

contrary side, if a light and lewd person, one that is full of bad 
conditions himself, would seem to find fault with others and be 
busy with his tongue, he must be sure always to hear this on 
both sides of his ears : 

Himself all full of sores impure 
Will others seem to heal and cure. 

Howbeit, forasmuch as oftentimes the case standeth so, that 
by occasion of some affairs we be driven to chastise those with 
whom we converse, when we ourselves are culpable and no better 
than they: the most cleanly and least offensive way to do it 
is this, To acknowledge in some sort that we be likewise faulty 
and to include and comprehend our own persons together with 
them; after which manner is that reproof in Homer: 

Sir Diomede, what aileth us? 

How is it come about ? 
That we should thus forget to fight, 

Who erst were thought so stout ? 

Also in another place : 

And now we all unworthy are 
With Hector only to compare. 

Thus Socrates mildly and gently would seem to reprove young 

men, making semblance as if himself were not void of ignorance, 

but had need also to be instructed in virtue, and professing that 

he had need with them to search for the knowledge of truth: 

for such commonly do win love and credit, yea, and sooner 

shall be believed, who are thought subject to the same faults, 

and seem willing to correct their friends like as they do their 

own selves; whereas he who spreadeth and displayeth his own 

wings, in clipping other men's, justifying himself as if he were 

pure, sincere, faultless, and without all affections and infirmities, 

unless he be much elder than we, or in regard of some notable 

and approved virtue in far higher place of authority and in 

greater reputation than ourselves, he shall gain no profit nor 

do any good, but be reputed a busybody and troublesome person. 

And therefore it was not without just cause that good Phoenix 

in speaking to Achilles alleged his own misfortunes, and namely 

how in a fit of choler he had like one day to have killed his own 

father, but that suddenly he bethought himself and changed his 


Lest that among the Greeks I should be nam'd 
A parricide, and ever after sham'd: 

To Discern a Flatterer from a Friend 95 

which he did no doubt to this end, because he would not seem 
in chiding him to arrogate this praise unto himself, that he was 
not subject to anger, nor had ever done amiss by occasion of 
that infirmity and passion. Certes such admonitions as these 
enter and pierce more effectually into the heart, for that they 
are thought to proceed from a tender compassion; and more 
willing are we to yield unto such as seem to have suffered the 
like, than to those that despise and contemn us. But forasmuch 
as neither the eye when it is inflamed can abide any clear and 
shining light, nor a passionate mind endure frank speech, or a 
plain and bare reprehension, one of the best and most profitable 
helps in this case is to intermingle therewith a little praise, as 
we read thus in Homer: 

Now (sure) methinks you do not well, 

Thus for to leave the field, 
Who all are known for doughty knights, 

And best with spear and shield. 
A coward if I saw to flee, 

Him would I not reprove: 
But such as you, thus for to shrink, 

My heart doth greatly move. 

Likewise : 

O Pandar, where is now thy bow, 

Where are thine arrows flight ; 
Where is that honour, in which none 

With thee dare strive in fight ? 

And verily such oblique reprehensions also as these, are most 
effectual and wonderful in reclaiming those that be ready to 
run on end, and fall to some gross enormities: as for example: 


What is become of wise CEdipus, 

In riddles a-reading who was so famous ? 

And Hercules, who hath endur'd such pain, 
Speaks he these words, so foolish and so vain ? 

For this kind of dealing doth not only assuage and mitigate the 
roughness and commanding power that is in a reprehension and 
rebuke, but also breedeth in the party in such sort reproved, a 
certain emulation of himself, causing him to be abashed and 
ashamed for any follies and dishonest pranks, when he remem- 
breth and calleth to mind his other good parts and commendable 
acts, which by this means he setteth before his eyes, as examples, 
and so taketh himself for a pattern and precedent of better 
things: But when we make comparison between him and others, 

96 Plutarch's Morals 

to wit, his equals in age, his fellow-citizens, or kinsfolk; then 
his vice, which in the own nature is stubborn and opinionative 
enough, becometh by that means more fro ward and exasperate, 
and oftentimes he will not stick in a fume and chafe to fling 
away, and grumble in this wise, Why go you not then to those 
that are so much better than I ? why can you not let me alone, 
but thus trouble me as you do? And therefore we must take 
heed especially, that whiles we purpose to tell one plainly of 
his faults, we do not praise others, unless haply they be his 
parents: as Agamemnon did unto Diomedes: 

A son (iwis) Sir Tideus left behind, 

Unlike himself, and much grown out of kind. 

And Ulysses in the tragedy entituled Scyrii : 

You, sir, whose father was a knight, 

The best that ever drew 
A sword, of all the Greeks, in field, 

And many a captain slew, 
Sit you here carding like a wench, 

And spinning wool on rock, 
Thereby the glorious light to quench 

Of your most noble stoek ? 

But most unseemly it were and undecent of all other, if when 
one is admonished by his friend, he should fall to admonish him 
again; and being told freely of his fault, serve him the like, 
and quit him with as much: for this is the next way to kindle 
coals, and to make variance and discord; and in one word verily, 
such a rejecting and spurning again as this, may seem in effect 
to bewray, not a reciprocal liberty of rendering one for another, 
but rather a peevish mind that can abide no manner of reproof. 
Better therefore it is to endure patiently for the time, a friend 
that telleth us plainly of our faults; and if himself afterwards 
chance to offend and have need of the like reprehension, this 
after a sort giveth free liberty unto him that was rebuked afore, 
to use the same liberty of speech again unto the other: For 
calling to mind by this occasion, without any remembrance of 
old grudge and former injury, that himself also was wont not 
to neglect his friends when they did amiss and forgat themselves, 
but took pains to reprove, redress, and teach them how to 
amend, he will the sooner yield a fault, and receive that chastise- 
ment and correction, which he shall perceive to be a retribution 
of like love and kindness, and not a requital of complaint and 

Moreover, like as Thucydides saith, That the man is wise and 

To Discern a Flatterer from a Friend 97 

well advised, who incurreth the envy of men for matters of 
greatest weight and importance; even so we say: That if a 
friend will adventure the danger and heavy load and ill will for 
blaming his friends, he must make choice of such matters as be 
of great moment and much consequence: for if he will take 
exceptions at every trifle and little thing indifferent; if he will 
seem evermore to be finding fault, and carry himself not like a 
kind and affectionate friend, but a precise, severe, and imperious 
schoolmaster, to spy all faults, and correct every point and 
tittle; certes, he shall find afterwards, that his admonitions, 
even for the greatest offences, shall not be regarded, nor any 
whit effectual : for that he hath used already to no purpose, his 
frank reprehension (the sovereign remedy for gross and main 
faults) in many others that are but slight, and not worthy 
reproof: much like unto a physician, who hath employed and 
spent a medicine that is strong and bitter, howbeit, necessary 
and costly, in small infirmities, and of no reckoning to speak of. 
A friend therefore is to look unto this ; That it be not an ordinary 
matter with him to be always quarrelsome, and desirous to find 
one fault or other. And if peradventure he meet with such a 
companion as is apt to search narrowly into all light matters, to 
cavil and wrangle for everything, and ready to raise calumnia- 
tions like a petty sycophant for toys and trifles, he may take 
the better advantage and occasion thereby for to reprove him 
again, in case he chance to fail in greater and more gross faults. 
Philotimus the physician answered prettily unto one, who 
having an impostume grown to suppuration about his liver, 
shewed unto him a finger that was sore, and troubled with some 
blister or whitflaw, and desired his counsel for the same: My 
good friend (quoth he), the disease that you are to look unto 
is not a whitflaw nor about your nail root; even so, there may 
be occasion and opportunity offered unto a friend, to say unto 
one that ever and anon is finding fault, and reproving small 
errors not worth the noting, to wit, sports and pastimes, feasting 
and merry meeting, or such-like trifling tricks of youth : Good 
sir, let us find the means rather, that this man whom you thus 
blame may cast off the harlot that he keeps, or give over his dice- 
playing; for otherwise he is a man of excellent and wonderful 
good parts. For he that perceiveth how he is tolerated or 
winked at, yea, and pardoned in small matters, will not be 
unwilling that a friend should use his liberty in reproving his 
greater vices: whereas he that is evermore urgent upon one, 
pressing and lying hard unto him ; always bitter and unpleasant, 



Plutarch's Morals 

prying and looking into every corner, and taking knowledge 
of all things: such an one (I say) there is neither child nor 
brother will endure ; nay, he is intolerable to his very servants : 
But like as Euripides saith: 

All is not naught that old age brings, 
We may in it find some good things. 

No more is the folly of friends so bad but that we may pick 
some goodness out of them: we ought therefore to observe 
diligently, not only when they do amiss, but also when they do 
well: and verily at the first to be willing and most ready to 
praise: but afterwards we must do as the smiths who temper 
iron: For when they have given it a fire, and made it by that 
means soft, loose, and pliable, they drench and dip it in cold 
water, whereby it becometh compact and hard, taking thereby 
the due temperature of stiff steel ; even so, when we perceive that 
our friends be well heat and relaxed (as it were) by hearing 
themselves praised by us, then we may come upon them by 
little and little with a tincture (as I may so say) of reproof, and 
telling them of their faults. Then will it be a fit time to speak 
unto a friend thus: How say you, are these pranks worthy to 
be compared with those parts? See you not the fruits that 
come of virtue? Lo, what we your friends require of you: 
these are the duties and offices which are beseeming your 
person: for these hath nature made and framed you. As for 
those lewd courses, fie upon them : 

Send such away, confine them far, 

Unto the mountain wild, 
Or into roaring sea, from land 

Let them be quite exil'd. 

For like as an honest-minded and discreet physician will choose 
rather to cure the malady of his patient by rest and sleep, or 
by good nutriture and diet, than by castoreum or scammonium : 
even so, a kind and courteous friend, a good father and gentle 
schoolmaster, taketh pleasure and joyeth more to use praises 
than reproofs, in the reformation of manners. For there is 
nothing that maketh the man who boldly findeth fault with 
his friends to be so little offensive unto them, or to do more 
good and cure them better, than to be void of anger, and to 
seem after a mild sort in all love and affectionate goodwill to 
address himself unto them, when they do amiss. And therefore 
neither ought he to urge them overmuch, and seem too eagerly 
to convince them if they deny the thing, nor yet to debar them 

To Discern a Flatterer from a Friend 99 

of liberty to make their answer and clear themselves : but rather 
to help them out, and after a sort to minister unto them some 
honest and colourable pretences, to excuse and justify their 
facts : and when a man seeth them do amiss by reason of some 
worse cause indeed, to lay the fault upon another occasion that 
is more tolerable. As Hector when he said unto Paris: 

Unhappy man, alas, you do not well 
To bear in breast a heart so fell. 

As if his brother's retire out of battle and refusal to combat 
with Menelaus, had not been a mere flight and running away, 
but very anger and a curst stomach. Likewise Nestor unto 
Agamemnon : 

But you ga. e place unto your haughty mind: 
And feed these fits which come to you by kind. 

For in mine advice a more mild reprehension is this than to 
have said: This was injuriously done of you, or this was a 
shameful and villanous part of yours; As also to say unto 
one, You could not tell what you did; you thought not of it; 
or you were altogether ignorant what would come thereof, is 
better and more civil than bluntly to charge him and say: 
This was a mere wrong, and a wicked act of yours. Also thus, 
Do not contest and quarrel in this wise with your brother, is 
less offensive than to say: Deal not thus enviously and spitefully 
against your brother: Likewise it were a more gentle manner 
of reproof to say unto a man : Avoid this woman that spoileth 
and abuseth you; than thus: Give over this woman, spoil 
and abuse her no more. Thus you see what means are to 
be used in this liberty of speech, when a friend would cure a 

But for to prevent the same, there would be practised a 
clean contrary course: for when it behoveth to avert and turn 
our friends from committing a fault, whereto they are prone 
and inclined; or to withstand some violent and disordinate 
passion, which carrieth them a clean contrary way; or when we 
are desirous to incite and stir them forward unto good things, 
being of themselves slow and backward : when, I say, we would 
give an edge unto them, who are otherwise dull, and heat them 
being cold, we ought to transfer the thing or act in hand to 
some absurd causes, and those that be unseemly and undecent. 
Thus Ulysses pricked on Achilles in a certain tragedy of 

ioo Plutarch's Morals 

Sophocles, when he said thus unto him: It is not for a supper, 
Achilles, that you are so angry, but 

For that you have already seen 
The walls of Troy, your fearful teen. 

And when upon these words Achilles took greater indignation, 
and chafed more and more, saying, that he would not sail 
forward but be gone back again, he came upon him a second 
time with this rejoinder: 

I wot well why you gladly would depart: 
'Tis not because at checks or taunts you chafe, 
But Hector is not far: he kills your heart; 
For dread of him to stay it is not safe. 

By this means when we scar a valiant and hardy man with the 
opinion of cowardice; an honest, chaste, and civil person with 
the note of being reputed loose and incontinent; also a liberal 
and sumptuous magnifico with the fear to be accounted a 
niggard or a mechanical micher ; we do mightily incite them to 
well-doing, and chase them from bad ways. And like as when 
a thing is done and past, and where there is no remedy, there 
should be borne a modest and temperate hand, in such sort that 
in our liberty of speech we seem to shew more commiseration, 
pity and fellow-grief of mind for the fault of a friend, than eager 
reprehension; so contrariwise where it stands upon this point 
that he should not fault, where (I say) our drift is to fight against 
the motion of his passions, there we ought to be vehement, 
inexorable, and never to give over nor yield one jot unto them. 
And this is the very time when we are to shew that love of ours 
and goodwill which is constant, settled, and sure, and to use 
our true liberty of speech to the full. For to reprove faults 
already committed, we see it is an ordinary thing among arrant 
enemies. To which purpose said Diogenes very well; That a 
man who would be an honest man ought to have either very- 
good friends, or most shrewd and bitter enemies: for as they 
do teach and instruct, so these are ready to find fault and 

Now far better it is for one to abstain from evil doing, in 
believing and following the sound counsel of his friends, than 
to repent afterwards of ill doing, when he seeth himself blamed 
and accused by his enemies. And therefore if it were for nothing 
else but this, great discretion and circumspection would be used 
in making remonstrances and speaking freely unto friends : and 
so much the rather, by how much it is the greater and stronger 

To Discern a Flatterer from a Friend 101 

remedy that friendship can use, and hath more need to be 
used in time and place convenient, and more wisely to be tem- 
pered with a mean and mediocrity. 

Now forasmuch as I have said sundry times already, that all 
reprehensions whatsoever are dolorous unto him that receiveth 
them: we ought in this case to imitate good physicians and 
chirurgeons: for when they have made incision or cut any 
member, they leave not the place in pain and torment still, but 
use certain fomentations and lenitive infusions to mitigate the 
anguish: No more do they that after a civil manner have chid 
or rebuked, run away presently so soon as they have bitten 
and pricked the party, but by changing their manner of speech, 
entertain their friends thus galled and wounded, with other 
more mild and pleasant discourses; to assuage their grief and 
refresh their heart again that is cast down and discomforted: 
and I may well compare them to these cutters and carvers of 
images, who after they have rough hewn and scabbled over 
certain pieces of stone for to make their statues of, do polish 
and smooth them fair, yea and give them a lightsome lustre. 
But if a man be stung and nipped once, or touched to the quick 
by some objurgatory reprehension, and so left rough, uneven, 
disquieted, swelling and puffing for anger, he is ever after hardly- 
quieted or reclaimed, and no consolation will serve the turn 
to appease and comfort him again. And therefore they who 
reprove and admonish their friends, ought to observe this rule 
above all others; Not to forsake them immediately when they 
have so done, nor to break off their conference suddenly, or to 
conclude their speech with any word that might grieve and 
provoke them. 


The persons that be the Speakers : Sylla and Fund anus 


[After we are taught how to discern a flatterer from a friend, it 
seemeth that this treatise, as touching mildness and how we ought 
to bridle anger, was set here in his proper place. For like as we 
may soon err grossly in choice of those whom we are willing and 
well content to have about us, and in that respect are to be circum- 
spect, and to stand upon our guard; so we have no less cause to 
consider how we should converse among our neighbours. Now of 
all those vices and imperfections which defame man's life, and cause 
the race and course thereof to be difficult and wondrous painful to 
pass, anger is one of those which are to be ranged in the first rank ; 
in such sort that it booteth not to be provided of good friends, if 
this furious humour get the mastery over us: like as contrariwise 
flatterers and such other pestilent plagues have not so easy entrance 
into us, nor such ready means to be possessed of us, so long as we 
be accompanied with a certain wise and prudent mildness. In this 
discourse then, our author, doing the part of an expert physician, 
laboureth to purge our minds from all choler, and would train them 
to modesty and humanity, so far forth as philosophy moral is able 
to perform. And for to attain unto so great a benefit, he sheweth 
in the first place that we ought to procure our friends for to observe 
and mark our imperfections, that by long continuance of time we 
may accustom ourselves to hold in our judgment by the bit of 
reason. After certain proper similitudes serving for this purpose, 
and a description of the inconveniences and harms that come by 
wrath, he proveth that it is an easy matter to restrain and repress 
the same: to which purpose he setteth down divers means, upon 
which he discourseth after his usual manner, that is to say, with 
reasons and inductions, enriched with notable similitudes and 
examples: afterwards, having spoken of the time and manner of 
chastising and correcting those who are under our power and 
governance, he proposeth as well certain remedies to cure choler, 
as preservatives to keep us from relapse into it again : Which done, 
he representeth ire lively, as in a painted table, to the end that those 
who suffer themselves to be surprised therewith, may be abashed 
and ashamed of their unhappy state: and therewith he giveth five 


Of Meekness 103 

notable advertisements for to attain thereto, which be as it were 
preservatives: by means whereof we should not feel ourselves 
attaint any more with this malady.] 

Sylla. It seemeth unto me (0 Fundanus) that painters do 
very well and wisely to view and consider their works often and 
by times between, before they think them finished and let them 
go out of their hands: for that by setting them so out of their 
sight, and then afterwards having recourse thither again to 
judge thereof, they make their eyes (as it were) new judges, to 
spy and discern the least fault that is, which continual looking 
thereupon, and the ordinary view of one and the same thing 
doth cover and hide from them. But forasmuch as it is not 
possible that a man should depart from himself for a time, and 
after a certain space return again; nor that he should break, 
interrupt and discontinue his understanding and sense within 
(which is the cause that each man is a worse judge of himself 
than of others). A second means and remedy therefore in this 
case would be used : namely, to review his friends sundry times, 
and eftsoons likewise to yield himself to be seen and beheld by 
them; not so much to know thereby whether he aged apace 
and grow soon old ; or whether the constitution of his body be 
better or worse than it was before, as to survey and consider 
his manners and behaviour, to wit, whether time hath added 
any good thing, or taken away ought that is bad and naught. 
For mine own part, this being now the second year since I came 
first to this city of Rome, and the fifth month of mine acquaint- 
ance with you, I think it no great wonder, that considering your 
towardness and the dexterity of your nature, those good parts 
which were already in you, have gotten so great an addition 
and be so much increased, as they are: but when I see how that 
vehement inclination and ardent motion of yours to anger, 
whereunto by nature you were given, is by the guidance of 
reason become so mild, so gentle and tractable, it cometh into 
my mind to say thereunto that which I read in Homer: 

O what a wondrous change is here? 
Much milder are you than you were. 

And verily this gentleness and meekness of yours is not turned 
into a certain sloth, and general dissolution of your vigour: but 
like as a piece of ground well tilled, lieth light and even, and 
besides more hollow than before, which maketh much for the 
fertility thereof; even so, your nature hath gotten instead of 
that violent disposition and sudden propension unto choler, a 

104 Plutarch's Morals 

certain equality and profundity, serving greatly to the manage- 
ment of affairs, whereby also it appeareth plainly that it is not 
long of the decaying strength of the body, by reason of declining 
age, neither yet of the own accord, that your hastiness and 
choleric passion is thus faded, but rather by means of good 
reasons and instructions well cured. And yet verily (for unto you 
I will be bold to say the truth) at the first I suspected and 
could not well believe Eros our familiar friend, when he made 
this report of you unto me; as doubting that he was ready to 
give this testimony of you in regard of affection and goodwill, 
bearing me in hand of those things which were not indeed in 
you, but ought to be in good and honest men : and yet (as you 
know well enough) he is not such a man, as for favour of any 
person, and for to please, can be easily persuaded and brought 
to say otherwise than he thinketh. But now as he is freed and 
acquit from the crime of bearing false witness: so you (since 
this journey and travel upon the way affordeth you good leisure) 
will (I doubt not) at my request, declare and recount unto us 
the order how you did this cure upon yourself; and namely 
what medicines and remedies you used, to make that choleric 
nature of yours so gentle, so tractable, so soft and supple, so 
obeisant (I say) and subject wholly to the rule of reason? 

Fundanus. But why do you not yourself (0 Sylla), my 
dearest and most affectionate friend, take heed, that for the 
amity and goodwill which you bear unto me, you be not deceived 
and see one thing in me for another? As for Eros, who for his 
own part hath not always his anger steadfastly stayed with the 
cable and anchor of Homer's Peisa (that is, obedient and abiding 
firm in one place), but otherwhiles much moved and out of 
quiet, for the hatred that he hath of vice and vicious men it 
may very well be, and like it is that unto him I seem more mild 
and gentle than before: like as we see in changing and altering 
the notes of prick-song, or the gamut in music, certain netce or 
notes which are the trebles in one 8 being compared with other 
net(B more high and small, become hypatce, that is, the bases. 

Sylla. It is neither so nor so (0 Fundanus), but of all loves, 
do as I desire you, for my sake. 

Fundanus. Since it is so (Sylla), among many good advertise- 
ments of Musonius which come to my mind, this is one; That 
whosoever would live safe and in health, ought all their lifetime 
to look to themselves, and be as it were in continual physic. For 
I am not of this mind, neither do I think it convenient that like 
as elleborus, after it hath done the deed within a sick man's 

Of Meekness 105 

body and wrought a cure, is cast up again together with the 
malady; so reason also should be sent out after the passion 
which it hath cured, but it ought to remain still in the mind for 
to keep and preserve the judgment. For why? reason is not to 
be compared with medicines and purgative drugs, but rather to 
wholesome and nourishing meats, engendering mildly in the 
minds of them unto whom it is made familiar, a good complexion 
and fast habit together with some perfect health: whereas 
admonitions and corrections applied or ministered unto passions 
when they swell and rage, and be in the height of their heat 
and inflammation, hardly and with much ado work any effect 
at all. and if they do, it is with much pain. Neither differ they 
in operation from those strong odours which well may raise out 
of a fit those who are fallen and be subject to the epilepsy or 
falling sickness; but they cure not the disease, nor secure the 
patient for falling again: True it is that all other passions of 
the mind, if they be taken in hand at the very point and instant 
when they are in their highest fury, do yield in some sort, and 
they admit reason coming from without into the mind for to 
help and succour, but anger not only, as Melanthius saith, 

Commits lewd parts, and reason, doth displace 
Out of her seat and proper resting-place, 

but also turneth her clean out of house and home, shutteth and 
locketh her out of doors for altogether; nay, it fareth for all 
the world like to those who set the house on fire over their own 
heads, and burn themselves and it together: it filleth all within 
full of trouble, smoke, and confused noises, in such sort that it 
hath neither eye to see, nor ear to listen unto those that would 
and might assist and give aid : and therefore sooner will a ship 
abandoned of her master in the midst of the sea, and there 
hulling dangerously in a storm and tempest, receive a pilot from 
some other ship without, than a man tossed with the waves 
of fury and anger, admit the reason and remonstrance of a 
stranger; unless his own reason at home were beforehand well 
prepared: But like as they who look for no other but to have 
their city besieged, gather together and lay up safe their own 
store and provision, and all things that might serve their turn, 
not knowing nor expecting any aid or relief abroad during the 
siege; even so ought we to have our remedies ready and pro- 
vided long before, and the same gathered out of all parts of 
philosophy and conveyed into the mind for to withstand the 
rage of choler: as being assured of this, that when need and 

106 Plutarch's Morals 

necessity requ reth to use them, we shall not easily admit the 
same, and suffer them to have entrance into us. For surely 
at such a time of extremity, the soul heareth not a word that is 
said unto it without, for the trouble and confusion within, 
unless her own reason be assistant ready both to receive and 
understand quickly every commandment and precept, and also 
to prompt the same accordingly unto her. And say that she 
doth hear: look what is said unto her after a mild, calm, and 
gentle manner, that she despiseth ; again, if any be more instant, 
and do urge her somewhat roughly, with those she is displeased, 
and the worse for their admonitions: for wrath being of the 
own nature proud, audacious, unruly, and hardly suffering 
itself to be handled or stirred by another, much like unto a 
tyrant attended with a strong guard about his person, ought to 
have something of the own which is domestical, familiar, and 
(as it were) inbred together with it, for to overthrow and dis- 
solve the same. 

Now the continual custom of anger and the ordinary or often 
falling into a chafe, breedeth in the mind an ill habit called 
wrathfulness, which in the end groweth to this pass, that it 
maketh a man choleric and hasty, apt to be moved at every- 
thing; and besides, it engendereth a bitter humour of revenge, 
and a testiness implacable, or hardly to be appeased; namely, 
when the mind is exulcerate once, taking offence at every small 
occasion, quarrelling and complaining for toys and trifles, much 
like unto a thin or a fine edge that entereth with the least force 
that the graver putteth it to. But the judgment of reason 
opposing itself straightways against such motions and fits of 
choler, and ready to suppress and keep them down, is not only 
a remedy for the present mischief, but also for the time to come 
doth strengthen and fortify the mind, causing it to be more 
firm and strong to resist such passions when they arise. 

And now to give some instance of myself: The same happened 
unto me after I had twice or thrice made head against choler, 
as befel sometimes to the Thebans; who having once repelled 
and put to flight the Lacedaemonians (warriors thought in those 
days invincible) were never in any one battle afterward defeated 
by them. For from that time forward I took heart and courage, 
as seeing full well that conquered it might be with the discourse 
of reason. I perceived, moreover, that anger would not only 
be quenched with cold water poured and cast upon it, as 
Aristotle hath reported unto us, but also that it would go out 
and be extinguished, were it never so light a fire before, by 

Of Meekness 1 07 

presenting near unto it some object of fear: nay (I assure you) 
by a sudden joy coming upon it unlooked for, in many a man, 
according as Homer saith, choler hath melted, dissolved and 
evaporated away. And therefore this resolution I made, that 
anger was a passion not incurable, if men were willing to be 
cured: for surely the occasions and beginnings thereof are not 
always great and forcible; but we see that a jest, a scoff, some 
sport, some laughter, a wink of the eye, or nod of the head, and 
such small matters, hath set many in a pelting chafe: even as 
Lady Helena saying no more but thus unto her niece or brother's 
daughter at their first meeting, 

Electra, virgin, long time since I you saw, etc., 

drave her in such a fit of choler, that therewith she was provoked 
to break off her speech with this answer: 

Wise now at last, though all too late, 

You are, I may well say, 
Who whilom left your husband's house, 

And ran with shame away. 

Likewise Callisthenes mightily offended Alexander with one 
word, who when a great bowl of wine went round about the table, 
refused it as it came to his turn, saying: I will not (I trow) 
drink so to your health, Alexander, that I shall have need 
thereby of ^Esculapius {i.e., a physician). A fire that newly 
hath caught aflame with hares' or conies' hair, dry leaves, hurds 
and light straw, stubble and rakings, it is an easy matter to put 
out and quench; but if it have once taken to sound fuel and 
such matter as hath solidity, substance and thickness in it, 
soon it burnetii and consumeth, as ^Eschylus saith: 

By climbing up and mounting high 
The stately works of carpentry. 

Semblably, he that will take heed unto choler at the beginning, 
when he seeth it once to smoke or flame out by occasion of some 
merry speech, flouting scoffs, and foolish words of no moment, 
needs not to strive much about the quenching of it: for many 
times if he do no more but hold his peace, or make small account 
or none at all of such matters, it is enough to extinguish and 
make it go out. For he that ministreth not fuel to fire, putteth 
it out; and whosoever feedeth not his anger at the first, and 
bloweth not the coals himself, doth cool and repress the same. 
And therefore Hieronymus the philosopher, although otherwise 
he have taught us many good lessons and instructions, yet in 

108 Plutarch's Morals 

this point he hath not pleased and satisfied me, when he saith; 
That a man is not able to perceive in himself the breeding of 
anger (so quick and sudden it is), but only when it is bred, then 
it may be felt: for surely there is no vice or passion in us that 
giveth such warning, or hath either so evident a generation or so 
manifest an augment whiles it is stirred and moved, as anger, 
according as Homer himself right skilfully, and as a man of 
good experience, giveth us to understand, who bringeth in 
Achilles sore moved to sorrow and grief of heart, even with a 
word, and at the very instant, when he heard the speeches of 
Agamemnon : for thus reporteth the poet of him : 

Out of the king his sovereign's mouth, 

The word no sooner past, 
But straight a black and misty cloud 

Of ire him overcast. 

But of Agamemnon himself, he saith that it was long ere he 
was angry; namely, after he had been kindled with many 
hard speeches, that were dealt to and fro, which if any third 
person stepping between would have stayed or turned away, 
certes their quarrel and debate had not grown to such terms 
of extremity as it did. And therefore Socrates so often as he 
felt himself somewhat declining and more moved than he should 
against any one of his friends, and avoiding as it were a rock in 
the sea, before the tempest came and the billows arose, would 
let fall his voice, shew a smiling countenance, and compose his 
look and visage to mirth and lenity, and thus by bending and 
drawing another away to that whereunto his affection inclined, 
and opposing himself to a contrary passion, he kept upright on 
his feet, so that he fell not, nor was overthrown. For there is 
(my good friend) a ready means in the very beginning to break 
the force of choler, like as there is a way to dissolve a tyrannical 
rule and dominion, that is to say, not to obey at the first, not 
to give ear and be ruled by her commandment, when she shall 
bid thee to speak and cry out aloud, or to look with a terrible 
countenance, or to knock or beat thyself; but to be still and 
quiet, and not to reinforce and increase the passion, as men do 
exasperate a sickness with struggling, striving, tossing and 
roaring out aloud. For those things which ordinary lovers 
and amorous young men practise, that is to say, to go in a 
wanton and merry mask, to sing and dance at the doors of their 
sweethearts and mistresses, to bedeck their windows with 
coronets and flower-garlands, bring some ease and alleviation 
(such as it is) of their passions, and the same not altogether 

Of Meekness 109 

undecent and uncivil, according to that which we read in the 

And when I came, aloud I cried not, 
And asked who she was, or daughter whose? 
But kist my love full sweetly, that I wot: 
If this be sin? but sin I cannot choose. 

Also that which we permit those to do who are in sorrow, 
namely, to mourn, to lament and weep for losses or mishaps; 
certainly with their sighs which they fetch, and tears that they 
shed, they do send out and discharge a good part of their grief 
and anguish. But it is not so with the passion of anger: for 
surely, the more that they stir and speak who are surprised 
therewith, the more hot it is, and the flame burneth out the 
rather; and therefore the best way is for a man to be quiet, 
to fly and keep him out of the way, or else to retire himself into 
some haven of surety and repose, when he perceiveth that there 
is a fit of anger toward, as if he felt an access of the falling evil 
coming. This (I say) we ought to do, for fear lest we fall down, 
or rather run and rush upon some one or other. But who be 
they that we run upon ? Surely our very friends, for the greatest 
part, and those we wrong most. As for our affection of love, 
it standeth not to all things indifferently, neither do we hate 
nor yet fear we everything alike : But what is it that ire setteth 
not upon? nothing is there but it doth assail and lay hands 
on ; we are angry with our enemies ; we chafe with our friends ; 
with children, with parents we are wrath; nay, the very gods 
themselves we forbear not in our choleric mood; we fly upon 
dumb and brute beasts; we spare not so much as our utensil 
vessels and implements, which have neither sense nor life at all, 
if they stand in our way, we fare like Thamyris the musician, 

Who brake his cornet, finely bound 
And tipt with gold: his lute he hent, 
Well strung and tun'd to pleasant sound, 
And it anon to fitters rent. 

Thus did Pandarus also, who cursed, and betook himself to all 
the fiends in hell, if he did not burst his bow and arrows with 
his own hands, and throw them into the fire when he had so 
done. As for Xerxes, he stuck not to whip, to lash and scourge 
the sea, and to the mountain Athos he sent his minatory letters 
in this form; Thou wretched and wicked Athos, that bear est up 
thy head aloft into the sky ; see thou bring forth no great craggy 
stones, I advise thee, for my works, and such as be hard to be cut 

1 10 Plutarch's Morals 

and wrought : otherwise, if thou do, I shall cut thee through and 
tumble thee into the main sea. 

Many fearful and terrible things there be that are done in 
anger, and as many for them again as foolish and ridiculous, 
and therefore of all passions that trouble the mind, it is both 
hated and despised most. In which regards expedient it were 
to consider diligently as well of the one as the other: for mine 
own part, whether I did well or ill, I know not; but surely, 
when I began my cure of choler in myself, I did as in old time 
the Lacedaemonians were wont to do by their Ilotes, men of 
base and servile condition: For as they taught their children 
what a foul vice drunkenness was, by their example when they 
were drunk, so I learned by observing others what anger was, 
and what beastly effects it wrought. First and foremost, 
therefore, like as that malady, according to Hippocrates, is of 
all others worst and most dangerous wherein the visage of the 
sick person is most disfigured and made unlikest itself; so, I 
seeing those that were possessed of choler, and (as it were) 
beside themselves thereby, how their face was changed, their 
colour, their countenance, their gait and their voice quite 
altered, I imagined thereupon unto myself a certain form 
and image of this malady, as being mightily displeased in 
my mind, if haply at any time I should be seen of my friends, 
my wife and the little girls my daughters, so terrible and so 
far moved and transported beside myself: not only fearful and 
hideous to behold, and far otherwise than I was wont, but 
also unpleasant to be heard; my voice being rough, rude 
and churlish: like as it was my hap to see some of my familiar 
friends in that case, who by reason of anger could not retain 
and keep their ordinary fashions and behaviour, their form of 
visage, nor their grace in speech, nor yet that affability and 
pleasantness in company and talk as they were wont. 

This was the reason that Caius Gracchus the orator, a man 
by nature blunt, rude in behaviour, and withal over-earnest 
and violent in his manner of pleading, had a little flute or pipe 
made for the nonce, such as musicians are wont to guide and 
rule the voice gently by little and little up and down, between 
base to treble, according to every note as they would them- 
selves, teaching their scholars thereby to have a tunable voice. 
Now when Gracchus pleaded at the bar at any time, he had one 
of his servants standing with such a pipe behind him: who 
observing when his master was a little out of tune, would sound 
a more mild and pleasant note unto him, whereby he reclaimed 

Of Meekness 1 1 i 

and called him back from that loud exclaiming, and so taking 
down that rough and swelling accent of his voice, 


Like as the neat-herds' pipes so shrill 
Made of the marish reeds so light; 

The joints whereof with wax they fill, 
Resound a tune for their delight : 

Which while the herd in field they keep, 

Brings them at length to pleasant sleep, 

ulced and allayed the choleric passion of the orator. Certes 
myself, if I had a pretty page to attend upon me, who were 
diligent, necessary and handsome about me, would not be 
offended but very well content, that when he saw me angry he 
should by and by present a mirror or looking-glass unto me, 
such a one as they use to bring and shew unto some that newly 
are come out of the bain, although no good or profit at all they 
have thereby. But certainly for man to see himself at such 
a time, how disquieted he is, how far out of the way, and beside 
the course of nature, it were no small means to check this 
passion, and to set him in hatred therewith for ever after. They 
who are delighted in tales and fables, do report by way of merry 
speech and pastime, that once when Minerva was a piping, 
there came a satyr and admonished her that it was not for her 
to play upon a flute ; but she for the time took no heed to that 
advertisement of his, notwithstanding he spake thus unto her: 

This form of face becomes you not, 
Lay up your pipes, take arms in hand; 

But first this would not be forgot, 

Your cheeks to lay, that puft now stand. 

But afterwards, when she had seen her face in a certain river, 
what a pair of cheeks she had gotten with her piping, she was 
displeased with herself and flung away her pipes: And yet this 
art and skill of playing well upon the pipe, yieldeth some 
comfort and maketh amends for the deformity of a disfigured 
visage, with the melodious tune and harmony that it affordeth ; 
yea and afterwards, Marsyas the minstrel (as it is thought) 
devised first with a certain hood and muzzle fastened round 
about the mouth, as well to restrain and keep down the violence 
of the blast enclosed thus by force, as also to correct and hide 
the deformity and undecent inequality of the visage : 

With glittering gold both cheeks as far 

As temples he did bind: 
The tender mouth with thongs likewise, 

Fast knit the neck behind. 

ii2 Plutarch's Morals 

But anger contrariwise, as it doth puff up and stretch out the 
visage after an unseemly manner, so much more it sendeth out 
undecent and unpleasant voice: 

And stirs the strings at secret root of heart, 
Which touched should not be, but lie apart. 

The sea verily, when being troubled and disquieted with bluster- 
ing winds, it casteth up moss, reits, and such-like weeds (they 
say), it is cleansed and purged thereby: but the dissolute, bitter, 
scurril, and foolish speeches, which anger sendeth out of the 
mind when it is turned upside down, first pollute and defile the 
speakers themselves, and fill them full of infamy, for that they 
be thought to have their hearts full of such ordure and filthiness 
at all times; but the same lurketh there, until that choler dis- 
covered it: And therefore, they pay most dearly for their 
speech, the lightest matter of all others (as Plato saith), in that 
they suffer this heavy and grievous punishment to be held and 
reputed for malicious enemies, cursed speakers, and ill-con- 
ditioned persons. Which I seeing and observing well enough, 
it falleth out that I reason with myself, and always call to mind 
what a good thing it is in a fever, but much better in a fit of 
choler, to have a tongue fair, even and smooth : For in them that 
be sick of an ague, if the tongue be not such as naturally it ought 
to be, an ill sign it is, but not a cause of any harm or indisposition 
within. Howbeit, if their tongues who are angry be once 
rough, foul, and running dissolutely at random to absurd 
speeches, it casteth forth outrageous and contumelious language, 
the very mother and work-mistress of irreconcilable enmity, and 
bewrayeth an hidden and secret maliciousness. As for wine, if 
a man drink it of itself undelayed with water, it putteth forth 
no such wantonness, no disordinate and lewd speeches, like to 
those that proceed of ire. For drunken talk serveth to make 
mirth, and to procure laughter rather than anything else: but 
words of choler are tempered with bitter gall and rancour. 
Moreover, he that sitteth silent at the table when others drink 
merrily, is odious unto the company and a trouble: whereas in 
choler there is nothing more decent and beseeming gravity, than 
to be quiet and say nothing: according as Sappho doth admonish : 

When furious choler once is up, 

Disperst and spread in breast, 
To keep the tongue then apt to bark, 

And let it lie at rest. 

The consideration of these things collected thus together, 

Of Meekness 1 1 3 

serveth not only to take heed always unto them that are subject 
to ire and therewith possessed, but also besides to know 
throughly the nature of anger: how it is neither generous or 
manful, nor yet hath anything in it that savoureth of wisdom 
and magnanimity. Howbeit the common people interpret the 
turbulent nature thereof to be active and meet for action: the 
threats and menaces thereof, hardiness and confidence, the 
peevish and froward unruliness to be fortitude and strength. 
Nay. some there be who would have the cruelty in it to be a 
disposition and dexterity to achieve great matters; the im- 
placable malice thereof to be constancy and firm resolution : the 
morosity and difficulty to be pleased, to be hatred of sin and 
vice ; howbeit, herein they do not well, but are much deceived, 
for surely the very actions, motions, gestures, and countenance 
of choleric persons do argue and bewray much baseness and 
imbecility : which we may perceive not only in these brain-sick 
fits that they fall upon little children, and them pluck, twitch, 
and misuse; fly upon poor silly women, and think that they 
ought to punish and beat their horses, hounds, and mules, like 
unto Ctesiphon, that famous wrestler and professed champion 
who stuck not to spurn and kick his mule; but also in their 
tyrannical and bloody murders, wherein their cruelty and bitter- 
ness, which declareth their pusillanimity and base mind; their 
actions, which shew their passions and their doing to others, 
bewraying a suffering in themselves, may be compared to the 
stings and bitings of those venomous serpents which be very 
angry, exceeding dolorous, and burn most themselves when they 
do inflict the greatest inflammation upon the patients, and put 
them to most pain : For like as swelling is a symptom or accident 
following upon a great wound or hurt in the flesh : even so it is 
in the tenderest and softest minds, the more they give place and 
yield unto dolour and passion, the more plenty of choler and 
anger they utter forth as proceeding from the greater weakness. 
By this you may see the reason why women ordinarily be 
more waspish, curst, and shrewd than men; sick folk more 
testy than those that are in health; old people more wayward 
and froward than those that be in the flower and vigour of their 
years; and finally, such as be in adversity and upon whom 
fortune frowneth, more prone to anger than those who prosper 
and have the world smiling upon them. The covetous miser 
and pinching penny-father is always most angry with his 
steward that layeth forth his money; the glutton is ever more 
displeased with his cook and caterer; the jealous husband 

1 14 Plutarch's Morals 

quickly falleth out and brawleth with his wife; the vain-glorious 
fool is soonest offended with them that speak anything amiss of 
him; but the most bitter and intolerable of all others, are 
ambitious persons in a city, who lay for high places and dignities, 
such also as are the heads of a faction in a sedition ; which is a 
trouble and mischief (as Pindarus saith) conspicuous and honour- 
able. Lo, how from that part of the mind which is wounded, 
grieved, suffereth most and especially upon infirmity and weak- 
ness, ariseth anger, which passion resembleth not (as one would 
have it) the sinews of the soul, but is like rather to their stretch- 
ing sprains and spasmatic convulsions, when it straineth and 
striveth overmuch in following revenge. 

Well, the examples of evil things yield no pleasant sight at all, 
only they be necessary and profitable; and for mine own part, 
supposing the precedents given by those who have carried them- 
selves gently and mildly in their occasions of anger, are most 
delectable, not only to behold, but also hear: I begin to con- 
temn and despise those that say thus: 

Likewise : 

To man thou hast done wrong: be sure 
At man's hand wrong for to endure. 

Down to the ground with him, spare not his coat, 
Spurn him and set thy foot upon his throat, 

and other such words which serve to provoke wrath and whet 
choler; by which some go about to remove anger out of the 
nursery, and women's chamber into the hall where men do sit 
and keep; but herein they do not well: For prowess and 
fortitude according in all other things with justice, and going 
fellow-like with her, methinks is at strife and debate with her 
about meekness and mildness only, as if she rather became her, 
and by right appertained unto her: For otherwhiles it hath been 
known that the worst men have gone beyond and surmounted 
the better. But for a man to erect a trophy and set up a 
triumphal monument in his own soul against ire (with which, 
as Heraclitus saith, the conflict is hard and dangerous: for 
what a man would have he buyeth with his life) is an act of 
rare valour and victorious puissance, as having in truth the 
judgment of reason, for sinews, tendons, and muscles to en- 
counter and resist passions. Which is the cause that I study, 
and am desirous always to read and gather the sayings and 
doings, not only of learned clerks and philosophers ; who, as our 
sages and wise men say, have no gall in them, but also and much 

Of Meekness 1 1 5 

rather of kings, princes, tyrants, and potentates : As, for example, 
such as that was of Antigonus, who hearing his soldiers upon a 
time revile him behind his pavilion, thinking that he heard them 
not, put forth his staff from under the cloth unto them and said: 
A whoreson knaves, could you not go a little farther off, when 
you meant thus to rail upon us ? Likewise when one Arcadian , 
an Argive or Achaean never gave over reviling of King Philip, 
and abusing him in most reproachful terms, yea, and to give 
him warning 

So far to fly, until he thither came 

Where no man knew nor heard of Philip's name. 

And afterwards the man was seen (I know not how)inMacedonia; 
the friends and courtiers of King Philip were in hand with him 
to have him punished, and that in any wise he should not let 
him go and escape : Philip, contrariwise, having him once in his 
hands, spake gently unto him, used him courteously, sending 
unto him in his lodging gifts and presents, and so sent him away. 
And after a certain time he commanded those courtiers of 
purpose to inquire what words he gave out of him unto the 
Greeks; but when every one made report again and testified 
that he was become another man, and ceased not to speak 
wonderful things in the praise of him; Lo (quoth Philip), then 
unto them: Am not I a better physician than all you, and can 
I not skill how to cure a foul-tongued fellow? Another time, 
at the great solemnity of the Olympian games, when the Greeks 
abused him with very bad language, his familiar friends about 
him said they deserved to be sharply chastised and punished 
for so miscalling and reviling him, who had been so good a 
benefactor of theirs : What would they do and say then (quoth 
he) if I should deal hardly by them and do them shrewd turns ? 
Semblably, notable and excellent was the carriage of Pisistratus 
to Thrasibulus: of King Porsenna to Mutius, and of Magas to 
Philemon, who in a public and frequent theatre had mocked 
and scoffed at him in this manner: 

Magas, there are some letters come 

Unto you from a king; 
But letter Magas none can read, 

Nor write for anything. 

Now it chanced afterwards that by a tempest at sea he was 
cast upon the port town Paraetonium, whereof Magas was 
governor, and so fell into his hands, who did him no other harm, 
but commanded one of his guard or officers about him only with 

1 1 6 Plutarch's Morals 

his naked sword to touch his bare neck, and so gently to go his 
ways and do no more to him: marry, afterwards, he sent unto 
him little bones for cockal, and a pretty ball to play withal, as 
if he had been a child that had no wit nor discretion, and so 
sent him home again in peace. King Ptolemseus, upon a time 
jesting and scoffing at a simple and unlearned grammarian, 
asked him who was the father of Peleus : I will answer you, sir 
(quoth he), if you tell me first who was the father of Lagus: 
This was a dry flout and touched King Ptolemseus very near, in 
regard of the mean parentage from whence he was descended: 
whereat all about the king were mightily offended, and thought 
it was too broad a jest and frump intolerable. But Ptolemaeus, 
if it be not seemly for a king to take and put up a scorn, surely 
as little decent it is for his person to give a scorn * 

Alexander the Great was more bitter and cruel (than other- 
wise his ordinary manner was to others) towards Callisthenes 
and Clytus. But King Porus, being taken prisoner by him in a 
battle, besought that he would use him royally, or like a king. 
And when King Alexander demanded, moreover, what he had 
more to say, and what he would have else? No more (quoth 
he), for under this word royally is comprised all. And therefore 
I suppose it is that the Greeks call the king of the gods by 
the name of Milichiiis, that is to say, Mild and sweet as honey. 
And the Athenians named him Mumactes, which is as much as, 
Ready to help and succour: For to punish and torment per- 
taineth to devils and »the furious fiends of hell : there is no 
celestial, divine, and heavenly thing in it. And like as one said 
of King Philip, when he had razed and destroyed the city 
Olynthus : Yea, marry, but he is not able to set up such another 
city in the place: even so, a man may well say unto anger, 
Thou canst overthrow, demolish, mar, and pull down; but to 
rear and erect again, to save, to pardon, and to endure, be 
the properties of meekness, clemency, mildness, patience and 
moderation: they be the parts (I say) of Camillus, Metellus, 
Aristides, and Socrates: whereas to stick close unto the flesh, 
to pinch, prick, and bite, are the qualities of pismires, flies, and 

Moreover and besides, when I look unto revenge, and the 
manner thereof, I find for the most part, that if men proceed 
by way of choler, they miss of their purpose : for commonly all 
the heat and desire of revenge is spent in biting of lips, gnashing 
and grating of teeth, vain running to and fro, in railing words 
1 It seemeth that here is somewhat wanting. 

Of Meekness 117 

with foolish threats and menaces among, that savour of no wit 
at all : By which means it fareth with them afterwards as with 
little children in running of a race, who for feebleness being not 
able to hold out, fall down before they come unto the goal, 
whereunto they made such ridiculous and foolish haste. And 
therefore in my conceit, it was not an improper answer which a 
certain Rhodian made unto one of the lictors and officers of a 
Roman general or lord praetor, who with wide mouth bawled 
at him, and made a glorious bragging and boasting. I pass 
not (quoth he) one whit what thou sayst; I care rather for 
that which he thinketh there, that saith nothing. In like 
manner Sophocles, when he had brought in Eurypylus and 
Neoptolemus all armed, speaketh bravely in their commenda- 
tion thus: 

They dealt no threats in vain, no taunts 

They made, nor boasting words; 
But to 't they went, and on their shields 

They laid on load with swords. 

And verily, some barbarous nations there are who use to poison 
their swords and other weapons of iron; but valour hath no 
need at all of the venom of choler, for dipped it is in reason and 
judgment; whereas whatsoever is corrupted with ire and fury 
is brittle, rotten, and easy to be broken into pieces. Which is 
the reason that the Lacedaemonians do allay the choler of their 
soldiers, when they are fighting, with the melodious sound of 
flutes and pipes; whose manner is also, before they go to battle, 
to sacrifice unto the Muses, to the end that their reason and 
right wits may remain in them still, and that they may have 
use thereof: yea, and when they have put their enemies to 
flight, they never pursue after nor follow the chase, but reclaim 
and hold their furious anger within compass, which they are 
able to wield and manage as they list; no less than these 
daggers or cutlasses, which are of a mean size and reasonable 

Contrariwise, anger hath been the cause that many thousands 
have come short of the execution of vengeance, and miscarried 
by the way. As, for example, Cyrus and Pelopidas the Theban 
among the rest. But Agathocles endured patiently to hear 
himself reproached and reviled by those whom he besieged: 
and when one of them said: You potter there! Hear you? 
Where will you have silver to pay your mercenary soldiers and 
strangers their wages? He laughed again and made answer; 
Even out of this city when I have once forced it. Some there 

1 1 8 Plutarch's Morals 

were also that mocked and scorned Antigonus from the very 
walls , and twitted him with his deformity and evil-favoured 
face. But he said no more than thus, Why! And I took myself 
before to have been very fair and well favoured. Now when he 
had won the town he sold in open port-sale those that had so 
flouted him, protesting withal unto them, that if from that 
time forward they mocked him any more, he would tell their 
masters of them and call them to account. 

Moreover, I do see that hunters, yea, and orators also, commit 
many faults in their choler. And Aristotle doth report, that 
the friends of Satyrus the orator, in one cause that he had to 
plead for them, stopped his ears with wax, for fear lest that he, 
when he heard his adversaries to rail upon him in their pleas, 
should mar all in his anger. And do not (I pray you) we our- 
selves many times miss of punishing our servants by this means, 
when they have done some faults: for when they hear us to 
threaten, and give out in our anger, that we will do thus and 
thus unto them, they be so frighted that they run away far 
enough off from us. Like as nurses, therefore, are wont to say 
unto their little children: Cry not, and you shall have this or 
that; so we shall do very well to speak unto our choler in this 
wise; Make no such haste, soft and fair, keep not such a crying, 
make not so loud a noise, be not so eager and urgent upon the 
point: so shall you see everything that you would have, sooner 
done and much better. And thus a father, when he seeth his 
child going about to cut or cleave anything with a knife or edge 
tool, taketh the tool or knife out of his hand, and doth it himself; 
even so he that doth take revenge out of the hands of choler, 
punisheth not himself, but him that deserveth it: and thus he 
doth surely, putting his own person in no danger, without 
damage and loss, nay, with great profit and commodity. 

Now, whereas all passions whatsoever of the mind had need 
of use and custom, to tame (as it were) and vanquish by exercise 
that which in them is unruly, rebellious and disobedient to 
reason : certes, in no one point besides had we need to be more 
exercised (I mean as touching those dealings that we have with 
our household servants) than in anger: for there is no envy and 
emulation that ariseth in us toward them, there is no fear that 
we need to have of them, neither any ambition that troubleth 
or pricketh us against them; but ordinary and continual fits 
of anger we have every day with them, which breed much offence 
and many errors, causing us to tread awry, to slip and do amiss 
sundry ways, by reason of that licentious liberty unto which we 

Of Meekness 1 1 9 

give ourselves, all the whiles that there is none to control, none 
to stay, none to forbid and hinder us: and therefore, being in 
so ticklish a place, and none to sustain and hold us up, soon we 
catch a fall, and come down at once. And a hard matter it is 
(I may say to you) when we are not bound to render an account 
to any one, in such a passion as this, to keep ourselves upright, 
and not to offend; unless we take order beforehand to restrain 
and empale (as it were) round about so great a liberty with 
meekness and clemency, unless (I say) we be well inured and 
acquainted to bear and endure many shrewd and unhappy 
words of our wives, much unkind language of friends and 
familiars, who many times do challenge us for being too remiss, 
over-gentle, yea, and altogether careless and negligent in this 
behalf. And this in truth hath been the principal cause that 
I have been quick and sharp unto my servants, for fear lest they 
might prove the worse for not being chastised. But at the last, 
though late it were, I perceived; First, that better it was by 
long sufferance and indulgence, to make them somewhat worse, 
than in seeking to reform and amend others, to disorder and 
spoil myself with bitterness and choler: Secondly, when I saw 
many of them oftentimes, even because they were not so 
punished, fear and shame to do evil, and how pardon and for- 
giveness was the beginning of their repentance and conversion, 
rather than rigour and punishment; and that I assure you, 
they would serve some more willingly with a nod or wink of the 
eye, and without a word spoken, than others with all their 
beating and whipping: I was at last persuaded in my mind 
and resolved, that reason was more worthy to command and 
rule as a master, than ire and wrath. For true it is not that 
the poet saith: 

Wherever is fear, 

Shame also is there: 

but clean contrary: Look who are bashful and ashamed; in 
them there is imprinted a certain fear that holdeth them in good 
order: whereas continual beating and laying on without mercy, 
breedeth not repentance in servants for evil doing, but rather 
a kind of forecast and providence how they should not be spied 
nor taken in their evil doing. Thirdly, calling to remembrance, 
and considering evermore with myself, that he who taught us 
to shoot forbade us not to draw a bow or to shoot an arrow, but 
to miss the mark: no more will this be any let or hindrance, but 
that we may chastise and punish our servants, if we be taught 
to do it in time and place, with moderation and measure, 

120 Plutarch's Morals 

profitably, and decently as it appertaineth. And verily I do 
enforce myself, and strive to master my choler and subdue it 
principally, nor denying unto them who are to be punished, the 
liberty and means to justify themselves, but in hearing them 
to speak what they can for their excuse. For as time and space 
doth in the meantime find the passion occupied another way, 
and withal bring a certain delay, which doth slack and let 
down (as it were) the vehemency and violence thereof; so 
judgment of reason all the while meeteth both with a decent 
manner and also with a convenient mean and measure of doing 
punishment accordingly. And besides, this course and manner 
of proceeding, leaveth him that is punished no cause, occasion, 
or pretence at all to resist and strive again, considering that he 
is chastised and corrected not in choler and anger, but being 
first convinced that he had well deserved his correction: and 
(which were yet worse than all the rest) the servant shall not 
have vantage to speak more justly and to better reason than 
his master. 

Well, then, like as Phocion after the death of Alexander the 
Great, having a care not to suffer the Athenians to rise over- 
soon, or make any insurrection before due time, nor yet to give 
credit rashly unto the news of his death: My masters of Athens 
(quoth he), if he be dead to-day, he will be dead to-morrow 
also, and three days hence too; even so should a man (in mine 
opinion) who, by the impulsion and instigation of anger, maketh 
haste to take punishment, thus suggest and secretly say to 
himself: If this servant of mine hath made a fault to-day, it 
will be as true to-morrow, and the next day after, that he hath 
done a fault; neither will there be any harm or danger at all 
come of it, if he chance to be punished with the latest; but 
believe me, if he be punished over-soon, it will be always thought 
that he had wrong, and did not offend: a thing that I have 
known to happen full often. For which of us all is so curst 
and cruel, as to punish and scourge a servant for burning the 
roast five or ten days ago ? or for that so long before he chanced 
to overthrow the table? or was somewhat with the slowest in 
making answer to his master; or did his errand or other business 
not so soon as he should? and yet we see these and such-like 
be the ordinary causes for which (whiles they be fresh and new 
done) we take on, we stamp and stare, we chafe, we frown, we 
are implacable and will hear of no pardon : And no marvel, for 
like as any bodies seem bigger through a mist, even so every- 
thing appeareth greater than it is through anger. 

Of Meekness i 2 1 

And therefore at these and such-like faults, we should wink 
for the time, and make as though we saw them not, and yet 
think upon them nevertheless, and bear them in mind. But 
afterwards, when the storm is well overblown, we are without 
passion, and do not suspect ourselves, then we may do well to 
consider thereof: and then, if upon mature deliberation, when 
our mind is staid and our senses settled, the thing appear 
to be naught, we are to hate and abhor it, and in no wise either 
to forlet and put off, or altogether to omit and forbear correc- 
tion, like as they refuse meats who have no stomach nor appetite 
to eat. For certainly it is not a thing so much to be blamed 
for to punish one in anger, as not to punish when anger is past 
and allayed, and so to be retchless and dissolute: doing as idle 
mariners, who so long as the sea is calm and the weather fair, 
loiter within the harbour or haven, but afterwards, when a 
tempest is up, spread sails and put themselves into danger. 
For even so we, condemning and neglecting the remissness and 
calmness of reason in case of punishment, make haste to execute 
the same during the heat of choler, which no doubt is a blustering 
and turbulent wind. As for meat, he calleth for it indeed, and 
taketh it naturally who is a-hungry: but surely he executeth 
punishment best who neither hungereth nor thirsteth after it: 
neither hath he need to use choler as a sauce or dainty dish for 
to get him a stomach and appetite to correct: but even when 
he is farthest off from desire of revenge, then of necessity he is 
to make use of reason and wisdom to direct him: for we ought 
not to do, as Aristotle writeth in his time the manner was in 
Tuscany; To whip servants with sound of flutes and hautboys; 
namely, to make a sport and pastime of punishing men, and to 
solace ourselves with their punishment for pleasure's sake, and 
then afterwards, when we have done, repent us of it: for as the 
one is brutish and beastlike, so the other is as womanish and 
unmanly: but without grief and pleasure both, at what time 
as reason and judgment is in force, we ought to let justice take 
punishment, and leave none occasion at all for choler to get 

But peradventure some one will say, that this is not properly 
the way to remedy or cure anger; but rather a putting by or 
precaution that we should not commit any of those faults which 
ordinarily follow that passion: Unto whom I answer thus; 
That the swelling of the spleen is not the cause but a symptom 
or accident of a fever: howbeit, if the said humour be fallen 
and the pain mitigated, the fever also will be much eased, 

122 Plutarch's Morals 

according as Hieronymus saith. Also, when I consider by what 
means choler is engendered: I see that one falleth into it upon 
this cause, another upon that : but in all of them it seemeth this 
general opinion there is, that they think themselves to be 
despised and naught set by. And therefore we ought to meet 
with such as seem to defend and maintain themselves, as being 
angry for just cause, and to cure them after this manner; namely, 
by diverting and removing from them, as far as ever we can, all 
suspicion of contempt and contumacy in those that have 
offended them and moved their anger ; in laying the fault upon 
inconsiderate folly, necessity, sickness, infirmity and misery, 
as Sophocles did in these verses: 

For those, my lords, whose state is in distress, 
Have not their spirits and wits as heretofore: 
As fortune frowns, they waxen ever less, 
Nay, gone are quite, though fresh they were before. 

And Agamemnon, albeit he laid the taking away of Briseis from 
Achilles upon Ate (that is to say) some fatal infortunity, yet 

He willing was and prest, him to content, 
And unto him rich gifts for to present. 

For to beseech and intreat are signs of a man that despiseth 
not, and when the party who hath given offence becometh 
humble and lowly, he removeth all the opinion that might be 
conceived of contempt. But he that is in a fit of choler must 
not attend and wait until he see that, but rather help himself 
with the answer of Diogenes. These fellows here said one unto 
him, Do deride thee, Diogenes; but I (quoth he again) do not 
find that I am derided ; even so ought a man who is angry not 
to be persuaded that he is contemned of another, but rather 
that himself hath just cause to contemn him, and to think that 
the fault committed did proceed of infirmity, error, heady- 
rashness, sloth and idleness, a base and illiberal mind, age or 

And as for our servants and friends, we must by all means 
quit them hereof, or pardon them at leastwise : For surely they 
cannot be thought to contemn us, in regard that they think 
us unable to be revenged, or men of no execution if we went 
about it: but it is either by reason of our remissness and mild- 
ness, or else of our love and affection, that we seem to be smally 
regarded by them, whiles our servants presume of our tractable 
nature, easy to be pacified, and our friends of our exceeding 
love that cannot be soon shaken oft% But now we are provoked 

Of Meekness 123 

to anger, not only against our wives, or servitors and friends, 
as being contemned by them ; but also many times in our choler 
we fall upon inn-keepers, mariners and muleteers, when they be 
drunk, supposing that they despise us. And that which more 
is. we are offended with dogs when they bay or bark at us; and 
with asses if they chance to fling out and kick us. Like unto 
him who lifted up his hand to strike and beat him that did drive 
an ass; and when the man cried that he was an Athenian: But 
thou, I am sure, art no Athenian (quoth he) to the ass, and 
laid upon the poor beast as hard as he could, and gave him 
many a blow with his cudgel. But that which chiefly causeth 
us to be angry, and breedeth a continual disposition thereto in 
our minds, causing us so often to break out into fits of choler, 
which by little and little was engendered and gathered there 
before, is the love of our own selves, and a kind of froward 
surliness hardly to be pleased, together with a certain daintiness 
and delicacy, which all concurring in one, breed and bring forth 
a swarm (as it were) of bees, or rather a wasps' nest in us. And 
therefore there cannot be a better means for to carry ourselves 
mildly and kindly, towards our wives, our servants, familiars 
and friends, than a contented mind, and a singleness or simplicity 
of heart, when a man resteth satisfied with whatsoever is present 
at hand, and requireth neither things superfluous nor exquisite: 

But he that never is content 

With rost or sod, but cook is shent : 

However he be serv'd, I mean 

With more, with less, or in a mean: 

He is not pleas' d, nor one good word 

Can give of viands set on board, 

Without some snow who drinks no draught, 

Nor eateth bread in market bought. 

Who tastes no meat, b' it never so good, 

Serv'd up in dish of earth or wood: 

And thinks no bed nor pillow soft, 

Unless with down like sea aloft 

Stirr'd from beneath, it strut and swell; 

For otherwise he sleeps not well ; 

who with rods and whips plieth and hasteneth the servitors at 
the table, making them to run until they sweat again, crying 
and bawling at them to come away apace, as if they were not 
carrying dishes of meat, but plasters and cataplasms for some 
inflammation or painful impostume: subjecting himself after a 
slavish manner to a servile kind of diet and life, full of discon- 
tentment, quarrels and complaints: little knoweth such an one 
how by a continual cough, or many concussions and distem- 
peratures, he hath brought his soul to an ulcerous and rheumatic 

124 Plutarch's Morals 

disposition about the seat and place of anger. And therefore 
we must use the body by frugality to take up and learn to be 
content with a competent mean (forasmuch as they who desire 
but a little, can never be disappointed nor frustrate of much), 
finding no fault, nor keeping any stir at the beginning about 
meat, but standing satisfied without saying a word, with that 
which God sendeth whatsoever it be, not fretting, vexing and 
tormenting ourselves at the table about everything, and in so 
doing, serving both ourselves and our company about us of 
friends, with the most unsavoury mess of meat, that is to wit, 

A supper worse than this I do not see 

How possibly one can devised be. 

Namely, whiles the servants be beaten, the wife chidden and 
reviled for the meat burnt, for smoke in the parlour, for want of 
salt, or for the bread over-stale and dry. But Arcesilaus upon 
a time with other friends of his, feasted certain strangers and 
hosts of his abroad, whose guest he had been; and after the 
supper was come in, and meat set upon the board, there wanted 
bread, by reason that his servants had forgotten and neglected 
to buy any: for such a fault as this, which of us here would 
not have cried out that the walls should have burst withal, 
and been ready to have thrown the house out of the window? 
And he laughing at the matter: He had need be a wise man 
(quoth he), I see well, that would make a feast and set it out 
as it should be. Socrates also upon a time, when he came from 
the wrestling school, took Euthydemus home with him to supper: 
but Xantippe, his wife, fell a-chiding and scolding with him at 
the board, reviling him with most bitter terms, so long, until at 
last in an anger down went table and all that was upon it: 
Whereupon Euthydemus arose, and was about to depart; but 
Socrates: Will you be gone? (quoth he). Why, do you not 
remember that the other day as we sat at supper in your house, 
there flew up to the board a hen and did as much for you ? and 
yet were not we offended nor angry for the matter. And in 
very truth, we must entertain our friends and guests with 
courtesy, mirth, a smiling countenance, and affectionate love: 
and not to brow-beat them, nor yet put the servitors in a fright, 
and make them quake and tremble with our frowning looks. 
Also we ought so to accustom ourselves that we may be content 
to be served with any kind of vessels whatsoever, and not upon 
a daintiness to have a mind to this rather than to that, but 
to like all indifferently. And yet there be some so divers, that 

Of Meekness 125 

although there be many cups and goblets standing upon the 
board, choose one from the rest, and cannot drink forsooth but 
out of that one: according as the stories do report of Marius, 
who loved one mazar, and could drink out of no other. Thus 
they do by their oil cruets and currying combs or rubbers, when 
they are at the bains or stouphs, taking a fancy and affection to 
some one above the rest: but if it chance that one of them be 
cracked, broken, or be lost and miscarry any way, then they 
are exceeding angry and fall to beating of their servants. 

Such men, therefore, as find themselves to be choleric, should 
do well to forbear all rare and exquisite things, to wit, pots, 
cups, seal rings of excellent workmanship and precious stones. 
For that such costly jewels, if they be marred or lost, breed 
more anger and set men out of order, more than those which be 
ordinary and easy to be come by. And therefore, when Nero 
the emperor had caused to be made a certain pavilion or taber- 
nacle eight square, which was both for the beauty and cost 
exceeding fair and sumptuous, and indeed an admirable piece 
of work. In this tabernacle (quoth Seneca) unto him, you have 
bewrayed, Caesar, that you are but a poor man: for if you lose 
this once, you shall never be able to recover and get the like 
again. And so it fell out indeed, for the ship wherein the same 
tabernacle was, chanced to be cast away upon the sea, and all 
was drowned. But Nero, calling to mind the words of Seneca, 
took the loss more patiently. 

Moreover, this contentment of mind, and easiness to be 
pleased with anything in the house, causeth a man also to be 
more gentle, mild, and better contented with his servants and 
people about him: now if it work this effect in us toward our 
household servants, evident it is that we shall be likewise 
affected to our friends and those that be under our government. 
We see also, that slaves new bought are inquisitive as touching 
him who hath bought them: not whether he be superstitious 
and envious; but whether he be choleric and hasty or no. And 
to be brief, neither can husbands endure the pudicity and 
honesty of their wives; nor wives the love of their husbands; 
nor yet friends the mutual conversation one with another, if 
there do an angry and choleric humour go withal. Thus we see 
that neither marriage nor amity be tolerable with choler. Con- 
trariwise, if anger be away, even drunkenness itself is tolerable 
and we can easily abide it: for the very ferula of god Bacchus 
is a sufficient punishment of drunkenness, if so be there be not 
choler therewith, which may cause Bacchus, that is, Strong 

126 Plutarch's Morals 

wine, instead of Lyseus and Chorius, that is to say, The Looser 
of cares and Leader of dances (which are his surnames), to be 
called Omestes and Mcenoles, which signify Cruel and Furious. 
As for simple madness of itself alone, the ellebore growing in 
Antycira is sufficient to cure: but if it be mingled with choler 
it causeth tragical fits, and those so strange, that a man would 
repute them for mere fables. 

And therefore we must not give place to anger, neither in 
sport and pastime; for in lieu of goodwill it breedeth enmity: 
nor in conference and disputations ; for it turneth the love and 
desire of knowledge into debate and contention : nor in deciding 
and judging causes ; because to authority it addeth violence and 
insolency: nor in the teaching and instruction of our children; 
for it maketh them desperate and haters of learning: nor in 
prosperity; for it encreaseth the envy and grudge of men: nor 
yet in adversity, because it taketh away pity and compassion, 
when they who are fallen into any misfortune, shew themselves 
testy, froward and quarrelous to those who come to moan and 
mourn with them. This did Priamus, as we read in Homer: 

Avaunt (quoth he), you chiding guests, 

You odious mates, be gone ; 
Have you no sorrows of your own, 

But you come me to moan ? 

On the other side, fair conditions and mild behaviour yieldeth 
succour and help in some cases; composeth and ordereth matters 
aright in others; dulceth and allayeth that which is tart and 
sour: and in one word, by reason of that kind, meek and gentle 
quality, it overcometh anger and all wayward testiness what- 
soever. Thus it is reported of Euclides in a quarrel or variance 
between him and his brother: For when his brother had con- 
tested and said unto him; I would I might die, if I be not 
revenged of thee: he inferred again; Nay, let me die for it, if 
I persuade thee not otherwise before I have done; by which 
one word he presently won his brother's heart, so that he 
changed his mind, and they parted friends. Polemon likewise, 
at a certain time, when one who loved precious stones, and was 
sick for fair and costly rings and such-like curious jewels, did 
rail at him outrageously, answered not a word again, but 
looked very wistly upon one of the signets that the other had, 
and well considered the fashion and workmanship thereof: 
which, when the party perceived, taking as it should seem no 
small contentment, and being very well pleased that he so 
perused his jewel; Not so, Polemon (quoth he again), but look 

Of Meekness 127 

upon it thus, between you and the light, and then you will think 
it much more beautiful. Aristippus fell out upon a time (I 
know not how) with ^Eschines, and was in a great choler and 
fit of anger: How now, Aristippus (quoth one who heard him 
so high and at such hot words), where is your amity and friend- 
ship all this while ? Marry, asleep (quoth he), but I will waken 
it anon. With that he stept close to ^Eschines, and said : Think 
you me so unhappy every way and incurable, that I deserved 
not one admonishment at your hands? No marvel (quoth 
,-Eschines again) if I thought you (who for natural wit in all things 
else excel me) to see better in this case also than I, what is 
meet and expedient to be done. For true it is that the poet 
saith : 

The boar so wild, whose neck with bristles strong 

Is thick beset, the tender hand and soft 

Of woman nice, yea, and of infant young, 

By stroking fair, shall bend and turn (full oft) 

Much sooner far, and that with greater ease 

Than wrestlers strong with all their force and peise. 

And we ourselves can skill how to tame wild beasts, we know 
how to make young wolves gentle, yea, and lions' whelps other- 
whiles we carry about with us in our arms: but see, how we 
again afterwards, in a raging fit of choler, be ready to fling from 
us and cast out of our sight our own children, our friends and 
familiars, and all our household servants, our fellow-citizens 
and neighbours, we let loose our ire like some savage and furious 
beast, and this rage of ours we disguise and cloak forsooth with 
a colourable and false name, calling it hatred of vice. But 
herein (I suppose) we do no otherwise than in the rest of our 
passions and diseases of the mind; terming one, providence and 
forecast; another, liberality; and a third, piety and religion: 
and yet for all these pretences of goodly names, we cannot be 
cured of the vices which they palliate; to wit, timorousness, 
prodigality and superstition. 

And verily, like as our natural seed (as Zeno said) is a certain 
mixture and composition derived and extracted from all the 
powers and faculties of the soul; even so, in mine opinion, a 
man may say that choler is a miscellany seed (as it were) and a 
dreg, made of all the passions of the mind : for plucked it is 
from pain, pleasure and insolent violence: Of envy it hath this 
quality, to joy in the harms of other men: it standeth much 
upon murder, but worse it is simply than murder: for the 
wrathful person striveth and laboureth not to defend and save 
himself from taking harm; but so he may mischief and over- 

128 Plutarch's Morals 

throw another, he careth not to come by a hurt and shrewd 
turn himself. It holdeth likewise of concupiscence and lust, 
and taketh of it the worse and more unpleasant part, in case it 
be (as it is indeed) a desire and appetite to grieve, vex, and 
harm another. And therefore, when we approach and come 
near to the houses of luxurious and riotous persons, we hear 
betimes in the morning a minstrel-wench sounding and playing 
the morrow- watch by break of day: we see the muddy-grounds 
and dregs (as one was wont to say) of the wine, to wit, the 
vomits of those who cast up their stomachs: we behold the 
pieces and fragments of broken garlands and chaplets: and at 
the door we find the lackeys and pages of them who ate within, 
drunken and heavy in the head with tippling strong wine. 

But the signs that tell where hasty, choleric, and angry persons 
dwell, appear in the faces of their servants, in the marks and 
wales remaining after their whipping, and in their clogs, irons, 
and fetters about their feet. For in the houses of hasty and 
angry men, a man shall never hear but one kind of music; that 
is to say, the heavy note of wailing groans and piteous plaints ; 
whiles either the stewards within are whipped and scourged, or 
the maidens racked and put to torture, in such sort that you 
would pity to see the dolours and pains of ire which she suffereth 
in those things that she lusteth after and taketh pleasure in. 
And yet as many of us as happen to be truly and justly sur- 
prised with choler oftentimes, for the hatred and detestation 
that we have of vices, ought to cut off that which is excessive 
therein and beyond measure, together with our over-light belief 
and credulity of reports concerning such as converse with us: 
For this is one of the causes that most of all doth engender and 
augment choler, when either he whom we took for an honest 
man proveth dishonest, and is detected for some naughtiness, 
or whom we reputed our friend is fallen into some quarrel and 
variance with us: as for myself, you know my nature and dis- 
position, what small occasions make me both to love men 
effectually, and also to trust them confidently; and therefore 
(just as it falleth out with them who go over a false floor where 
the ground is not fast, but hollow under their feet) where I lean 
most and put my greatest trust for the love that I bear, there 
I offend most and soonest catch a fall: there (I say) am I grieved 
most also, when I see how I was deceived : As for that exceeding 
inclination and forwardness of mind, thus to love and affect a 
man, could I never yet to this day wean myself from, so inbred 
it is and settled in me : marry, to stay myself from giving credit 

Of Meekness 129 

over-hastily and too much, I may peradventure use that bridle 
which Plato speaketh of, to wit, wary circumspection: For in 
recommending the mathematician Helicon, I praise him (quoth 
he) for a man, that is as much to say, as a creature by nature 
mutable and apt to change. And even those who have been 
well brought up in a city, to wit, in Athens, he saith that he is 
afraid likewise of them, lest being men, and coming from the seed 
of man, they do not one time or other bewray the weakness and 
infirmity of human nature: and Sophocles, when he speaketh 

Who list to search through all deeds of mankind 
More bad than good he shall be sure to find, 

seemeth to clip our wings, and disable us wonderfully. Howbeit, 
this difficulty and caution in judging of men and pleasing our- 
selves in the choice of friends, will cause us to be more tractable 
and moderate in our anger: for whatsoever cometh suddenly 
and unexpected, the same soon transporteth us beside ourselves. 
We ought, moreover, as Panatius teacheth us in one place, to 
practise the example of Anaxagoras, and like as he said, when 
news came of his son's death; I know well (quoth he) that I 
begat him a mortal man; so in every fault of our servants or 
others that shall whetten our choler, each one of us may sing 
this note to himself : I knew well that when I bought this slave 
he was not a wise philosopher: I wist also that I had gotten for 
my friend not one altogether void of affections and passions: 
neither was I ignorant when I took a wife that I wedded a 

Now if withal a man would evermore, when he seeth others 
do amiss, add this more unto the ditty as Plato teacheth us, 
and sing thus: Am not I also such another? turning the dis- 
cursion of his judgment from things abroad to those which are 
within himself, and among his complaints and reprehensions of 
other men, come in with a certain caveat of his own, and fear to 
be reproved himself in the like; he would not haply be so 
quick and forward in the hatred and detestation of other men's 
vices, seeing that himself hath so much need of pardon. But 
on the contrary side, every one of us, when he is in the heat of 
choler and punisheth another, hath these words of severe 
Aristides and precise Cato ready enough in his mouth: Steal 
not, sirrah: Make no more lies: Why art thou so idle then? 
etc. To conclude (that which of all others is most unseemly 
and absurd), we reprove in anger others for being angry; and 


130 Plutarch's Morals 

such faults as were committed in choler, those ourselves will | 
punish in choler; not verily as the physicians use to do, who 

A bitter medicine into the body pour, 

When bitter choler they mean to purge and scour. 

But we rather do increase the same with our bitterness, and 
make more trouble than was before. 

And therefore, when I think and discourse with myself of 
these matters, I endeavour withal and assay to cut off somewhat 
from needless curiosity. For surely this narrow searching and 
streight looking into everything, for to spy and find out a fault; 
as for example, to sift thy servant and call him into question 
for all his idle hours; to pry into every action of thy friend; 
to see where about thy son goeth, and how he spendeth all his 
time ; to listen what whispering there is between thy wife and 
another, be the very means to breed much anger, daily brawls, 
and continual jars, which grow in the end to the height of curst- 
ness and frowardness, hard to be pleased with anything what- 
soever. For according as Euripides saith in one place, we ought 
in some sort to do: 

All great affairs God ay himself directeth, 
But matters small, to fortune he committeth. 

For mine own part, I do not think it good to commit any 
business to fortune; neither would I have a man of under- 
standing to be retchless in his own occasions: But with some 
things to put his wife in trust; others to make over unto ser- 
vants, and in some matters to use his friends. Herein to bear 
himself like a prince and great commander, having under him 
his deputies, governors, receivers, auditors, and procurators; 
reserving unto himself and to the disposition of his own judg- 
ment, the principal affairs and those of greatest importance. 
For like as little letters or a small print do more offend and 
trouble the eyes than greater, for that the eyes be very intentive 
upon them; even so, small matters do quickly move choler, 
which thereupon soon getteth an ill custom in weightier matters. 
But above all, I ever reckon that saying of Empedocles to be a 
divine precept and heavenly oracle, which admonisheth us To 
fast from sin. I commended also these points and observations, 
as being right honest, commendable, and beseeming him that 
maketh profession of wisdom and philosophy, which we use to 
vow unto the gods in our prayers: Namely, To forbear both wine 
and women, and so to live sober and chaste a whole year together, 

Of Meekness i 3 1 

and in the meanwhile to serve God with a pure and undefiled heart : 
Also, to limit and set out a certain time, wherein we would not 
make a lie, observing precisely not to speak any vain and idle word, 
either in earnest or in bourd. 

With these and such-like observations also I acquainted and 
furnished my soul, as being no less affected to religion and 
godliness than studious of learning and philosophy: Namely, 
first enjoined myself to pass a certain few holy-days without 
being angry or offended upon any occasion whatsoever; no 
less than I would have vowed to forbear drunkenness, and 
abstain altogether from wine, as if I sacrificed at the feast 
Nephalia [wherein no wine was spent], or celebrated the 
solemnity Melisponda [in which honey only was used.] Thus, 
having made an entrance; I tried afterwards a month or two 
by little and little what I could do, and ever I gained more and 
more time, exercising myself still to forbear sin with all my power 
and might. Thus I proceeded and went forward daily, blessing 
myself with good words and striving to be mild, quiet and void 
of malice, pure and clean from evil speeches and lewd deeds: 
but principally from that passion which for a little pleasure 
and the same not very lovely, bringeth with it great troubles 
and shameful repentance in the end. Thus with the grace of 
God assisting me somewhat (as I take it) in this good resolution 
and course of mine, experience itself approved and confirmed 
my first intent and judgment, whereby I was taught, That this 
mildness, clemency and debonair humanity is to none of our 
familiars who live and converse daily with us, so sweet, so 
pleasant and agreeable as to ourselves who have these virtues 
and good qualities within us. 



[The former treatise hath shewed unto us how many mischiefs 
and inconveniences anger causeth, teaching us the means how to 
beware of it. Now Plutarch dealeth with another vice, no less 
dangerous than it, which bendeth to the opposite extremity. For 
whereas ire doth so bereave a man of the use of reason during the 
access and fit thereof, that the choleric and furious persons differ 
not one from another, but in the space of time. This curiosity 
which now is in hand, being masked under the name of wisdom and 
hability of spirit, is (to say a truth) a covert and hidden fury, which 
carrieth the mind of the curious person past himself, for to gather 
and heap from all parts the ordure and filthiness of another, and 
afterwards to bring the same into himself, and to make thereof a 
very storehouse, for to infect his own self first, and then others, 
according as the malignity and malice, the follies, backbiting, and 
slanders of these curious folk do sufficiently declare. To the end, 
therefore, that every man who loveth virtue should divert from 
such a malady, our author sheweth that the principal remedy for 
to preserve us from it, is to turn this curiosity to our own selves; 
namely, to examine our own persons more diligently than others. 
Which point he amplifieth by setting down on the contrary side the 
blindness of those who are over-busy and curious. Then cometh he 
to declare why a curious person goeth forth always out of his own 
house for to enter into another man's; to wit, because of his own 
filthiness, which by that means he cannot smell and perceive; but 
whiles he will needs go to stir and rake into the life of others, he 
snareth and entangleth himself, and so perisheth in his own folly 
and indiscretion. Afterwards proceeding to prescribe the remedies 
for the cure of curiosity, when he had deciphered the villanies and 
indignities thereof, together with the nature of curious persons, and 
the enormous vices which accompany them, he requireth at our 
hands that we should not be desirous to know things which be 
vile, base, lewd or unprofitable ; that we should hold in our eyes, and 
not cast them at random and adventure within the house of another, 
that we should not seek after the bruit and rumours that are spread 
in meetings and companies; that we otherwhiles should forbear 
even such things whereof the use is lawful and permitted: also to 
take heed that we do not enter nor sound too deep into our own 
affairs; Finally, not to be rash and heady in those things that we 
do, be they never so small. All these points premised, he adorneth 
with inductions, similitudes and choice examples, and knitteth up 
all with one conclusion, which proveth that curious folk ought to 
be ranged among the most mischievous and dangerous persons in 
the world.] 


Of Curiosity 133 

The best way haply it were altogether to avoid an house and 
not therein at all to dwell, which is close, without fresh air, dark, 
standing bleak and cold, or otherwise unhealthful: Howbeit, if 
a man by reason that he hath been long used to such an house, 
delight in that seat, and will there abide, he may either, by 
altering the prospects and removing the lights, or by changing 
the stairs into another place, or else by opening the doors of 
one side, and shutting them upon another, make the house more 
lightsome, better exposed to the wind for to receive fresh air, 
and in one word, more wholesome than before. And verily 
some have much amended whole cities by the like alterations: 
as, for example, men say that one Chaeron in times past turned 
my native city and place of nativity, Chaeronea, to lie eastward, 
which before looked toward the western wind Zephyrus, and 
received the sun setting from the mount Parnassus. And 
Empedocles, the natural philosopher, by stopping up the mouth 
or deep chink of a certain mountain between two rocks, which 
breathed out a noisome and pestilent southern wind upon all 
the champaign country and plain underneath, was thought to 
have put by the plague, which, by occasion of that wind, 
reigned ordinarily before in that country. 

Now forasmuch as there be certain hurtful and pestiferous 
passions, which send up into our soul tempestuous troubles and 
darkness, it were to be wished that they were chased out quite, 
and thrown down to the very ground; whereby we might give 
ourselves a free prospect, an open and clear light, a fresh and 
pure air; or if we be not so happy, yet at leastwise endeavour 
we ought, by all means possible, to change, alter, translate, 
transpose and turn them so about, as they may be found more 
fit and commodious to serve our turns. As, for example, and 
to go no farther for the matter, curiosity, which I take to be a 
desire to know the faults and imperfections in other men, is a 
vice or disease which seemeth not clear of envy and malicious- 
ness: And unto him that is infected therewith may very well 
be said: 

Most spightful and envious man, 

Why dost thou ever find 
With piercing eyes thy neighbour's faults, 

And in thine own art blind? 

avert thine eyes a little from things without, and turn thy 
much meddling and curiosity to those that be within. If thou 
take so great a pleasure and delight to deal in the knowledge 

134 Plutarch's Morals 

and history of evil matters, thou hast work enough iwis at 
home, thou shalt find plenty thereof within to occupy thyself: 

For look what water runs along 

An isthmus or isle we see, 
Or leaves lie spread about the oak, 

Which numbered cannot be. 

Such a multitude shalt thou find of sins in thy life, of passions 
in thy soul, and of oversights in thy duties. For like as Xeno- 
phon saith, That good stewards of an household have one 
proper room by itself for those utensils or implements which 
serve for sacrifice; another for vessel that cometh to the table; 
in one place he layeth up the instruments and tools for tillage 
and husbandry, and in another apart from the rest he bestoweth 
weapons, armour and furniture for the wars ; even so shalt thou 
see within thyself a number of manifold vices how they are 
digested: some proceeding from envy, others from jealousy; 
some from idleness, others from niggardise: take account of 
these (I advise thee), survey and peruse them over well : shut all 
the doors and windows that yield prospect unto thy neighbours : 
stop up the avenues that give access and passage to curiosity: 
But set open all other doors that lead into thine own bed- 
chamber, and other lodgings for men, into thy wife's cabinet 
and the nursery, into the rooms where thy servants keep: 
There shalt thou meet wherewith to amuse and busy thyself: 
there may curiosity and desire to know everything be employed 
in exercises neither unprofitable nor malicious: nay, in such 
as be commodious, wholesome and tending to salvation : namely, 
whiles every one calleth himself to account, saying thus: 

Where have I done, what good I have done, 

Or what have I misdone ? 
Where have I slipt, what duty begun 

Is left by me undone ? 

But now, according as fables make report, that Lamia the 
witch, whiles she is at home is stark blind, and doth nothing 
but sing, having her eyes shut up close within a little box; but 
when she means to go abroad she takes them forth, and setteth 
them in their right place, and seeth well enough with them ; even 
so, every one of us when we go forth, set unto that evil meaning 
and intention which we have to others, an eye to look into them, 
and that is curiosity and over-much meddling; but in our own 
errors, faults and trespasses we stumble and fail through 
ignorance, as having neither eyes to see, nor light about them 

Of Curiosity 1 3 5 

whereby they may be seen. And therefore it is, that a busy 
fellow and curious meddler doth more good to his enemies than 
to himself; for their faults he discovereth and bringeth to 
light, to them he sheweth what they ought to beware of, and 
what they are to amend: but all this while he overseeth, or 
rather seeth not the most things that are done at home, so 
deeply amused he is and busy in spying what is amiss abroad. 
Howbeit, wise Ulysses would not abide to speak and confer with 
his own mother, before he had inquired of the prophet those 
things for which he went down into hell ; and when he had once 
heard them, then he turned to his mother and other women 
also, asking what was Tyro ? what was Chloris ? and what was 
the occasion and cause that Eperaste came by her death? 

Who knit her neck within a deadly string, 
And so from beam of lofty house did hing. 

But we, quite contrary, sitting still in supine idleness and 
ignorance, neglecting and never regarding that which con- 
cerneth ourselves, go to search into the genealogy and pedigrees 
of others; and we can tell readily that our neighbours' grand- 
father was no better than a base and servile Syrian; that his 
nurse came out of barbarous Thracia; that such an one is in 
debt, and oweth three talents, and is behindhand besides and 
in arrearages for non-payment of interest for the use thereof. 

Inquisitive also we are in such matters as these: From 
whence came such a man's wife? what it was that such a one 
and such a one spake when they were alone together in an odd 
corner? Socrates was clean of another quality; he would go 
up and down inquiring and casting about what were the reasons 
wherewith Pythagoras persuaded men to his opinion. Aris- 
tippus likewise, at the solemnity of the Olympian games, falling 
into the company of Ischomachus, asked of him, what were the 
persuasions that Socrates used to young folk, whereby they 
became so affectionate unto him; and after he had received 
from him some small seeds (as it were) and a few samples of those 
reasons and arguments, he was so moved and passionate there- 
with, that presently his body fell away, he looked pale, poor and 
lean, until he having sailed to Athens in this wonderful thirst 
and ardent heat, had drunk his fill at the fountain and well- 
head itself, known the man, heard his discourses and learned 
his philosophy; the sum and effect whereof was this: That a 
man should first know his own maladies, and then the means 
to be cured and delivered of them. But some there be who 

136 Plutarch's Morals 

of all things cannot abide to see their own life, as being unto 
them the most unpleasant sight of all others ; neither love they 
to bend and turn their reason as a light to their own selves : but 
their mind being full of all sorts of evil, fearing and ready to 
quake for to behold what things are within, leapeth forth (as 
one would say) out of doors, and goeth wandering to and fro, 
searching into the deeds and words of other men, and by this 
means feedeth and fatteth (as it were) her own malicious 
naughtiness. For like as a hen many times, having meat 
enough within house set before her, loveth to go into some corner, 
and there keepeth a-pecking and scraping of the ground, 

To find perhaps one seely barley corn 
As she was wont on dunghill heretoforn; 

even so these busy polypragmons, passing by those ordinary 
speeches and matters which are exposed and open for every 
man; not regarding (I say) the reports and narrations which 
are free for each one to discourse of, and which neither any 
man hath to do, to forbid and warn them for to ask and inquire 
of, nor will be displeased if peradventure he should be demanded 
and asked the question of them, go up and down in the mean- 
time to gather and learn all the secret and hidden evils of every 
house. Certes, a pretty answer it was of an Egyptian, and 
pertinent to the purpose, who when one asked him what it was 
that he carried covered all over, and so enwrapped within a 
cloth: Marry (quoth he), covered it is even for this cause, that 
thou shouldest not know what it is : And thou likewise, that art 
so busy, why dost thou intermeddle in that which is concealed ? 
Be sure that if there were no evil therein, kept close it should 
not be. 

And verily, it is not the manner and custom for anybody to 
enter boldly into the house of another man, without knocking 
at the door; for which purpose we use porters in these days; 
whereas in old time there were rings and hammers which served 
the turn, and by rapping at the gates, gave warning to those 
within, to the end that no stranger might meet the mistress at 
unawares in the hall or middes of the house ; or come suddenly 
upon a virgin or young damosel her daughter, and find her out 
of her chamber; or take some of the servants a-beating, or the 
wenches and chamber-maids chiding and scolding aloud : whereas 
a busy fellow loveth alife to step secretly into a house, for to 
see and hear such disorders; and you shall never know him 
willingly to come and see an honest house and well governed 

Of Curiosity i 37 

(though one should call and pray him never so fair), but ready 
he is to discover and set abroad in the view of the whole world 
such things; for which we use locks, keys, bolts, bars, portals 
and gate-houses. Those winds (saith Ariston) are we most 
troubled and offended with which drive open our cloaks and 
garments that cover us, or blow and whisk them over our heads : 
but busy polypragmons doth lay abroad and display not the 
cloaks of their neighbours nor their coats ; but discovereth their 
walls, setteth wide open their doors, and like a wind, pierceth, 
creepeth and entereth so far as to the tender-bodied and soft- 
skinned maiden, searching and inquiring in every bacchanal, in 
all dancings, wakes and night feasts, for some matter to raise 
slanders of her. And as one Cleon was noted by an old comical 
poet upon the stage: 

Whose hands were both in iEtolie, 
But heart and mind in Clopidie; 

Even so the spirit of a curious and busy person is at one time 
in the stately palaces of rich and mighty men, in the little houses 
of mean and poor folk, in kings' courts, and in the bed-chambers 
of new-wedded wives; it is inquisitive in all matters, searching 
as well the affairs of strangers and travellers, as negotiations of 
lords and rulers, and otherwhile not without danger of his own 
person. For much like as if a man upon a kind of wanton 
curiosity will needs be tasting of aconite or libard-bane, to know 
(forsooth) the quality of it, cometh by a mischief and dieth of it 
before he can know anything thereof; so they that love to be 
prying into the faults of great persons, many times overthrow 
themselves before they come to any knowledge. For such as 
cannot be content with the abundant rays and radiant beams 
of the sun which are spread so clear over all things, but will 
needs strive and force themselves impudently to look full upon 
the circle of his body, and audaciously will presume and venture 
to pierce his brightness and enter into the very minds of his 
inward light, commonly dazzle their eyes and become stark 
blind. And therefore well and properly answered Philippides, 
the writer of comedies, upon a time when King Lysimachus 
spake thus unto him ; What wouldest thou have me to impart 
unto thee of my goods, Philippides? What it pleaseth your 
majesty (quoth he), so it be nothing of your secrets. For to 
say a truth, the most pleasant and beautiful things simply, which 
belong to the estate of kings, do shew without, and are exposed 
to the view and sight of every man; to wit, their sumptuous 

138 Plutarch's Morals 

feasts, their wealth and riches, their magnificent port and pomp 
in public places, their bountiful favours, and liberal gifts: But 
is there anything secret and hidden within. Take heed, I 
advise thee, how thou approach and come near, beware (I say) 
that thou do not stir and meddle therein. 

The joy and mirth of a prince in prosperity cannot be con- 
cealed; he cannot laugh when he is disposed to play and 
be merry but it is seen; neither when he mindeth and doth 
prepare to shew some gracious favour or to be bountiful unto 
any is his purpose hidden; but mark what thing he keepeth 
close and secret, the same is terrible, heavy, stern, unpleasant, 
yea, ministering no access nor cause of laughter: namely, the 
treasure-house (as it were) of some rancour and festered anger; 
a deep design or project of revenge; jealousy of his wife, some 
suspicion of his own son; or diffidence and distrust in some of 
his minions, favourites and friends. k Fly from this black cloud 
that gathereth so thick; for whensoever that which is now 
hidden shall break forth, thou shalt see what cracks of thunder 
and flashes of lightning will ensue thereupon. 

But what be the means to avoid it? Marry (even as I said 
before), to turn and to withdraw thy curiosity another way; 
and principally to set thy mind upon matters that are more 
honest and delectable: Advise thyself and consider curiously 
upon the creatures in heaven, in earth, in the air, and in the sea. 
Art thou delighted in the contemplation of great or small things ? 
if thou take pleasure to behold the greater, busy thyself about 
the sun; seek where he goeth down, and from when he riseth? 
Search into the cause of the mutations in the moon, why it 
should so change and alter as it doth, like a man or woman? 
what the reason is that she loseth so conspicuous a light, and 
how it cometh to pass that she recovereth it again? 

How is it, when she hath been out of sight 
That fresh she seems and doth appear with light ? 
First young and fair whiles that she is but new 
Till round and full we see her lovely hew: 
No sooner is her beauty at this height 
But fade she doth anon, who was so bright, 
And by degrees she doth decrease and wane 
Until at length she comes to naught again. 

And these truly are the secrets of nature, neither is she offended 
and displeased with those who can find them out. Distrustest 
thou thyself to attain unto these great things? then search 
into smaller matters, to wit, what might the reason be that 
among trees and other plants, some be always fresh and green, 

Of Curiosity 139 

why they flourish at all times, and be clad in their gay clothes, 
shewing their riches in every season of the year; why others 
again be one while like unto them in this their pride and glory; 
but afterward you shall have them again like unto an ill husband 
in his house ; namely, laying out all at once, and spending their 
whole wealth and substance at one time, until they be poor, 
naked, and beggarly for it. Also what is the cause that some 
bring forth their fruit long-wise, others cornered, and others 
round or circular? But peradventure thou hast no great mind 
to busy thyself and meddle in these matters, because there is 
no hurt nor danger at all in them. 

Now if there be no remedy, but that curiosity should ever 
apply itself to search into evil things after the manner of some 
venomous serpent, which loveth to feed, to live and converse 
in pestilent woods, let us lead and direct it to the reading of 
histories, and present unto it abundance and store of all wicked 
acts, lewd and sinful deeds. There shall curiosity find the ruins 
of men, the wasting and consuming of their state, the spoil of 
wives and other women, the deceitful trains of servants to 
beguile their masters, the calumniations and slanderous surmises 
raised by friends, poisoning casts, envy, jealousy, shipwreck and 
overthrow of houses, calamities and utter undoing of princes 
and great rulers : Satisfy thyself herewith to the lull, and take 
thy pleasure therein as much as thou wilt; never shalt thou 
trouble or grieve any of thy friends and acquaintance in so 
doing. But it should seem that curiosity delighteth not in such 
naughty things that be very old and long since done; but in 
those which be fresh, fire new, hot and lately committed, as 
joying more to behold new tragedies. As for comedies and 
matters of mirth, she is not greatly desirous to be acquainted 
with such. And therefore, if a man do make report of a mar- 
riage, discourse of a solemn sacrifice, or of a goodly shew or 
pomp that was set forth, the curious busybody (whom we speak 
of) will take small regard thereto and hear it but coldly and 
negligently. He will say that the most part of all this he heard 
already by others, and bid him who relateth such narrations to 
pass them over or be brief, and cut off many circumstances. 
Marry, if one that sits by him chance to set tale on end, and 
begin to tell him there was a maiden defloured, or a wife abused 
in adultery : if he recount of some process of law or action com- 
menced, of discord and variance between two brethren ; you shall 
see him then not to yawn and gape as though he had list to 
sleep; you shall not perceive him to nod; he will make no 

140 Plutarch's Morals 

excuse at all that his leisure will not serve to hear out the 

But bids say on, and tell us more: 

And close he holds his ear therefore. 

So that this sentence, 

How sooner much are ill news understood 
And heard by men (alas) than tidings good ! 

is well and truly verified of these curious polypragmons. For 

like as cupping glasses, boxes, and ventoses draw the worst 

matter out of the flesh; even so, the ears of curious and busy 

folk are willing to receive and admit the most lewd and 

naughtiest speeches that are : or rather, to speak more properly, 

as towns and cities have certain cursed and unlucky gates, at 

which they send out malefactors to execution, carry and throw 

forth their dung, ordure, fllthiness, and cleansings whatsoever, 

but never cometh in or goeth out that way anything that pure 

is and holy; semblably, the ears of these curious intermeddlers 

be of the same nature : for there entereth and passeth into them 

nothing that is honest, civil and lovely; but the bruit and 

rumours of cruel murders have access unto them, and there 

make abroad, bringing therewith wicked, abominable, profane 

and cursed reports : and as one said : 

The only bird that in my house doth ever chant and sing, 
Both night and day, is doleful moan, much sorrow and wailing. 

So this is the muse, siren and mermaid alone that busy folk 
have; neither is there anything that they hearken to more 
willingly: for curiosity is an itching desire to hear secrets and 
hidden matters : and well you wot that no man will lightly con- 
ceal any good thing that he hath; considering that many times 
we make semblance of good parts that be not in us. And there- 
fore the busy intermeddler who is so desirous to know and hear 
of evils, is subject to that which the Greeks call o-n-LxatpecrKaKia, 
a vice, cousin-german or sister rather to envy and eye-biting. 

Forasmuch as envy is nothing else but the grief for another 
man's good : and the foresaid oTTL^aipea-KaKia the joy for his harm : 
and verily both these infirmities proceed from an untoward root, 
even another untamed vice and savage disposition, to wit, 
malignity or malice. And this we know well, that so irksome 
and odious it is to every man for to bewray and reveal the 
secrets, evils and vices which he hath, that many men have 
chosen to die rather than to discover and open unto physicians 
any of their hidden maladies, which they carry about them. 
Now suppose that Heraclitus or Erosistratus, the physicians; 

Of Curiosity 141 

nay, iEsculapius himself, whiles he was a mortal man, should 
come to an house furnished with drugs, medicines and instru- 
ments requisite for the cure of diseases, and ask whether any 
man there had a. fistula in ano, that is, an hollow and hidden 
ulcer within his fundament? Or if she be a woman, whether 
she have a cankerous sore within her matrice (albeit in this art 
such inquisitive curiosity is a special means, making for the 
good and the health of the sick): each one, I suppose, would be 
ready to hunt and chase away from the house such a physician, 
who, unsent for, and before any need required, came upon his 
own accord and motion in a bravery to inquire and learn other 
folks' maladies. 

What shall we say then to these busy meddlers, who inquire 
of another the selfsame infirmities and worse too ? Not of any 
mind at all to cure and heal the same, but only to detect and 
set them abroad; In which respect they are by good right the 
most odious persons in the world. For we hardly can abide 
publicans, customers, and toll-gatherers, but are mightily 
offended with them, not when they exact of us and cause us to 
pay toll for any commodities or wares that are openly brought 
in; but when they keep a ferreting and searching for such 
things as be hidden, and meddle with the wares and carriages 
of other men: notwithstanding that law granteth and public 
authority alloweth them so to do; yea, and if they do it not, 
they sustain loss and damage themselves. But contrariwise, 
these curious fellows let their own business alone, and pass not 
which end go forward, caring not to hinder themselves, whiles 
they be intentive to the affairs of other men. Seldom go they 
into the country, for that they cannot endure the quietness and 
still silence of the wild and solitary fields. But if haply after 
long time they make a start thither, they cast an eye to their 
neighbours' vines, rather than to their own; they inquire how 
many beeves or oxen of his died? or what quantity of wine 
soured under his hand? and no sooner are they full of these 
news, but into the city they trudge and make haste again. As 
for the good farmer and painful husbandman indeed, he is not 
very willing to give ear unto those news, which without his 
hearkening after come from the city of the own accord, and 
are brought unto him, for his saying is: 

My ditcher will anon both tell and talk 

Upon what points concluded was the peace, 

For now the knave about such news doth walk, 
And busy he, to listen doth not cease. 

14 2 Plutarch's Morals 

But in truth, these busybodies, avoiding country life and hus- 
bandry, as a vain trade and foolish occupation, a cold manner 
of living, which bringeth forth no great and tragical matter, 
intrude and thrust themselves into the high courts of justice, 
the tribunal seats, the market-place and public pulpits where 
speeches be made unto the people, great assemblies, and the 
most frequented quarter of the haven where the ships ride at 
anchor, what: No news? saith one of them. How now? 
Were you not this morning at the market or in the common 
place? What then: How think you, is not the city mightily 
changed and transformed within these three hours? Now if it 
chance that some one or other make an overture, and have 
something to say as touching those points, down he alights on 
foot from his horse, he embraceth the man, kisseth him, and 
there stands attending and giving ear unto him. But say that 
the party whom he thus encountereth and meeteth upon the 
way, tell him that he hath no news to report: What sayst thou? 
(will he infer again and that in displeasure and discontentment): 
Were not thou in the market-place of late ? Didst not thou pass 
by the prince's court? Hadst thou no talk or conference at all 
with those that came out of Italy? In regard of such, therefore, 
as these, I hold well with the magistrates of the city Locri, and 
commend a law of theirs : That if any citizen had been abroad 
in the country, and upon his return home demanded what news ? 
he should have a fine set on his head. For like as cooks pray 
for nothing but good store of fatlings to kill for the kitchen, and 
fishmongers plenty of fishes; even so curious and busy people 
wish for a world of troubles and a number of affairs, great news, 
alterations and changes of state: to the end that they might 
evermore be provided of gain, to chase and hunt after, yea, and 
to kill. 

Well and wisely, therefore, did the law-giver of the Thurians, 
when he gave order and forbade expressly, That no citizen should 
be taxed, noted by name, or scoffed at upon the stage in any 
comedy, save only adulterers and these busy persons. For 
surely adultery may be compared well to a kind of curiosity, 
searching into the pleasures of another: seeking (I say) and 
inquiring into those matters which are kept secret, and con- 
cealed from the view of the whole world. And as for curiosity, 
it seemeth to be a resolution or looseness, like a palsy or cor- 
ruption, a detection of secrets and laying them naked: For it 
is an ordinary thing with those who be inquisitive and desirous 
of many news for to be blabs also of their tongues, and to be 

Of Curiosity 143 

prattling abroad ; which is the reason that Pythagoras enjoined 
young men five years' silence, which he called echemychia, 
abstinence from all speech, or holding of their tongue. 

Moreover, it cannot otherwise be chosen but that foul and 
cursed language also should accompany curiosity; for look 
what thing soever busybodies hear willingly, the same they love 
to tell and blurt out as quickly; and such things as with desire 
and care they gather from one, they utter to another with joy: 
Whereupon it cometh to pass that over and above other incon- 
veniences which this vice ministereth unto them that are given 
to it, an impediment it is to their own appetite. For as they 
desire to know much, so every man observeth them, is beware 
of them, and endeavoureth to conceal all from them. Neither 
are they willing to do anything in their sight, nor delighted to 
speak aught in their hearing, but if there be any question in 
hand to be debated, or business to be considered and consulted 
of, all men are content to put off the conclusion and resolution 
unto another time; namely, until the curious and busy person 
be out of the way. And say, that whiles men are in sad and 
secret conference, or about some serious business, there chance 
one of these busybodies to come in place, presently all is hushed, 
and everything is removed aside and hidden, no otherwise than 
folk are wont to set out of the way victuals where a cat doth 
haunt, or when they see her ready to run by; insomuch as many 
times those things which other men may both hear and see 
safely, the same may not be done or said before them only. 

Therefore also it followeth by good consequence, that a busy 
and curious person is commonly so far out of credit that no man 
is willing to trust him for anything; in such sort that we. commit 
our letters missive and sign manual sooner to our servants and 
mere strangers than to our friends and familiars, if we perceive 
them given to this humour of much meddling. But that worthy 
knight Bellerophontes was so far from this, that he would not 
break open those letters which he carried, though they were 
written against himself, but forbare to touch the king's epistle, 
no less than he abstained from the queen his wife, even by one 
and the same virtue of continence. For surely, curiosity is a 
kind of incontinency, as well as is adultery; and this moreover 
it hath besides, that joined there is with it much folly and 
extreme want of wit: For were it not a part (think you) of 
exceeding blockish senselessness, yea, and madness in the 
highest degree, to pass by so many women that be common, 
and everywhere to be had ; and then to make means with great 

144 Plutarch's Morals 

cost and expense, to some one kept under lock and key, and 
besides sumptuous : notwithstanding it fall out many times that 
such an one is as ill-favoured as she is foul? Semblably, and 
even the same do our curious folk: they omit and cast behind 
them many fair and goodly sights to behold, many excellent 
lectures worth the hearing, many disputations, discourses, honest 
exercises and pastimes; but in other men's letters they keep a 
puddering, they open and read them, they stand like eaves- 
droppers under their neighbours' walls, hearkening what is done 
or said within, they are ready to intrude themselves to listen 
what whispering there is between servants of the house; what 
secret talk there is among silly women when they be in some 
odd corner, and, as many times they are by this means not free 
from danger, so always they meet with shame and infamy. 

And therefore very expedient it were for such curious folk, 
if they would shift off and put by this vice of theirs, eftsoons 
to call to mind (as much as they can) what they have either 
known or heard by such inquisition : for if (as Simonides was 
wont to say) that when he came (after some time between) to 
open his desks and coffers, he found one which was appointed for 
gifts and rewards always full, the other ordained for thanks and 
the graces void and empty: so, a man after a good time past, 
set open the store-house of curiosity, and look into it what is 
therein, and see it top full of many unprofitable, vain and 
unpleasant things; peradventure the very outward sight and 
face thereof will discontent and offend him, appearing in every 
respect so loveless and toyish as it is. Go to then: if one should 
set in hand to turn over leaf by leaf the books of ancient writers, 
and when he hath picked forth and gathered out the worst, 
make one volume of all together, to wit, of those headless and 
unperfect verses of Homer, which haply begin with a short 
syllable, and therefore be called aKe^aXoc: or of the solecisms 
and incongruities which be found in tragedies: or of the un- 
decent and intemperate speeches which Archilochus framed 
against women, whereby he defamed and shamed himself: 
were he not (I pray you) worthy of this tragical curse: 

A foul ill take thee, thou lewd wretch, 

That lovest to collect 
The faults of mortal men now dead, 

The living to infect. 

But to Jet these maledictions alone, certes, this treasuring and 
scoring up by him of other men's errors and misdeeds, is both 
unseemly, and also unprofitable: much like unto that city which 

Of Curiosity 145 

Philip built of purpose, and peopled it with the most wicked, 
graceless and incorrigible persons that were in his time, calling 
it Poneropolis when he had so done. 

And therefore these curious meddlers in collecting and gather- 
ing together on all sides the errors, imperfections, defaults, and 
solecisms (as I may so say) not of verses or poems, but of other 
men's lives, make of their memory a most unpleasant archive or 
register, and uncivil record, which they ever carry about them. 
And like as at Rome, some there be who never cast eye toward 
any fine pictures, or goodly statues, no, nor so much as make 
any account to cheapen beautiful boys and fair wenches which 
there stand to be sold, but rather go up and down the market 
where monsters in nature are to be bought, seeking and learning 
out where be any that want legs, whose arms and elbows turn 
the contrary way like unto cats ; or who have three eyes apiece 
in their heads, or be headed like unto the ostrich: taking 
pleasure (I say) to see if there be born 

A mongrel mixt of divers sorts, 

False births, unkind or strange aborts. 

But if a man should bring them to see such sights as these 
ordinarily, the very thing itself would soon give them enough, 
yea and breed a loathing in them of such ugly monsters; even 
so it fareth with those who busy themselves and meddle in 
searching narrowly into the imperfections of other men's lives, 
the reproaches of their stocks and kindred, the faults, errors, 
and troubles that have happened in other nouses; if they call 
to mind what like defects they have found and known before- 
time, they shall soon find that their former observations have 
done them small pleasure, or wrought them as little profit. 

But the greatest means to divert this vicious passion is use 
and custom; namely, if we begin a great way off and long 
before to exercise and acquaint ourselves in a kind of continency 
in this behalf, and so learn to temper and rule ourselves; for 
surely use it was and custom that caused this vice to get such 
an head, increasing daily by little and little, and growing from 
worse to worse: But how and after what manner we should be 
inured to this purpose we shall see and understand as we treat 
of exercise withal. 

First and foremost, therefore, begin we will at the smallest 
and most slender things, and which most quickly may be 
effected. For what matter of difficulty is it for a man in the 
way as he travelleth, not to amuse and busy his head in reading 

146 Plutarch's Morals 

epitaphs or inscriptions of sepulchres ? or what pain is it for us 
as we walk along the galleries, to pass over with our eyes the 
writings upon the walls; supposing thus much secretly within 
ourselves, as a maxim or general rule : That there is no goodness, 
no pleasure, nor profit at all in such writings : for there you may 
read, That some one doth remember another, and make mention 
of him by way of hearty commendations in good part; or such 
an one is the best friend that I have, and many other such-like 
mottoes are there to be seen and read, full of toys and vanities, 
which at first seem not to do any hurt if one read them, but in 
truth, secretly they do much harm, in that they breed in us a 
custom and desire to seek after needless and impertinent matters. 
For like as hunters suffer not their hounds to range out of order, 
nor to follow every scent, but keep them up and hold them in 
by their collars, reserving by that means their smelling pure 
and neat altogether for their proper work, to the end that they 
should be more eager and hot to trace the footing of their game, 
and as the poet saith: 

With scent most quick of nostrils after kind, 
The tracks of beast so wild, in chase to find ; 

even so, we ought to cut off these excursions and foolish trains 
that curious folk make to hear and see everything; to keep 
them short (I say) and turn them another way to the seeing 
and hearing only of that which is good and profitable. Also, 
as we observe in eagles and lions, that whiles they go upon the 
ground they draw their talons and claws inward, for fear lest 
they should dull the sharp edge and wear the points thereof; so 
considering that curiosity hath a certain quick conceit and fine 
edge (as it were), apt to apprehend and know many things, let 
us take heed that we do not employ and blunt the same in the 
worst and vilest of all others. 

Secondly, we are to accustom ourselves as we pass by another 
man's door not to look in, nor to cast our eyes to anything 
whatsoever that there is: for that the eye is one of the hands 
that curiosity useth. But let us always have in readiness and 
think upon the apothegm of Xenocrates, who was wont to say 
that it skilled not, but was all one, whether we set our feet or 
«yes within the house of another man. For it is neither meet 
and just, nor an honest and pleasant sight, according to the 
old verse: 

My friend or stranger, whatever you be, 
You shall within all things deformed see. 

Of Curiosity 1 47 

And what be those for the most part which are seen in houses? 
dishes, trenchers and such-like utensils and small vessels lying 
on the bare ground, or one upon another disorderly: the 
wenches set and doing just nothing: and lightly a man shall 
not find ordinarily ought of importance or delight. Now the 
very cast of the eye upon such things doth therewith turn away 
the mind; the intentive looking thereupon is unseemly, and 
the using thereof stark naught. Diogenes verily upon a time 
seeing Dioxippus, when he entered in his triumphant chariot 
into the city for winning the best prize at the Olympian games, 
how as he rode he could not chuse but set his eye upon a 
certain fair damosel, who was in place to behold this pomp and 
solemn entrance of his, but evermore his eye followed her, 
whether she were before or behind him: Behold (quoth he) our 
victorious and triumphant champion, how a young wench hath 
him sure enough by the neck, and doth writhe him which way 
she list! Semblably, see you not how these curious folk have 
their necks bended aside at every foolish sight, and how they 
turn about with each vanity that they hear and see, after once 
they have gotten an habit or custom to look every way and to 
carry a rolling eye in their heads? But in mine opinion it is 
not meet that our senses should gad and wander abroad, like 
a wild and untaught girl, but when reason hath sent it forth 
to some business; after it hath been there employed and done 
the errand about which it was set, to return speedily again unto 
her mistress the soul, and make report how she hath sped and 
what she hath done? and then afterwards to stay at home 
decently like a modest waiting-maiden, giving attendance upon 
reason, and ready always at her command. But now happeneth 
that which Sophocles saith: 

The headstrong jades that will no bit abide, 

Hate him perforce who should them rein and guide. 

The senses having not met with good instructions (as I said 
before), nor been trained to right ways, run before reason upon 
their own accord, and draw with them many times the under- 
standing, and send it headlong after such things as are not 
seemly and decent. And therefore false is that which is com- 
monly reported of Democritus the philosopher: namely, that 
willingly he dimmed and quenched (as it were) his own sight, 
by fixing his eyes fast upon a fiery and ardent mirror, to take 
the reverberation of the light from thence, to the end that they 
should not disturb the mind by calling out eftsoons the inward 


Plutarch's Morals 

intelligence, but suffer it to keep house within, and to be 
employed in objects intellectual, as if the windows that regard 
the street and highway were shut up. Howbeit most true it is, 
that those who for the most part occupy their understanding 
have least use of their senses: which is the reason that in old 
time they both builded the temples of the Muses, that is to say, 
houses ordained for students, which they named Musaea, as far 
as they could from cities and great towns: and also called the 
night Euphrone, as one would say, a friend to sage advice and 
counsel; as supposing that quiet rest, repose and stillness from 
all disturbance make very much for contemplation, and inven- 
tion of those things that we study and seek for. 

Moreover, no harder matter is it nor of greater difficulty than 
the rest, when in the open market-place or common hall, men 
are at high words, reproaching and reviling one another, not to 
approach and come near unto them. Also, if there be any 
great concourse and running of people together upon some 
occasion, not to stir at all but sit still, or if thou art not able to 
contain and rule thyself, to rise up and go thy ways. For 
surely gain thou shalt no good at all by intermeddling with such 
busy and troublesome persons; but contrariwise, much fruit 
mayst thou reap by turning away such curiosity, in repressing 
the same and constraining it by use and custom to obey reason. 

Having made this good entrance and beginning, to proceed 
now unto farther and stronger exercise, it were very good, 
whensoever there is any play exhibited upon the stage in a 
frequent theatre, where there is assembled a great audience to 
hear and see some worthy matter for to pass by it, and to put 
back thy friends who solicit thee to go thither with them, for 
to see either one dance excellent well, or to act a comedy; nor 
so much as to turn back when thou hearest some great shout 
and outcry, either from out of the race or the grand-cirque, 
where the horse-running is held for the prize. For like as 
Socrates gave counsel to forbear those meats which provoke 
men to eat when they are not hungry, and those drinks which 
incite folk to drink when they have no thirst; even so, we ought 
to avoid and beware how we either see or hear anything what- 
soever, which may either draw or hold us thereto, when there 
is no need at all thereof. The noble Prince Cyrus would not 
so much as see fair Lady Panthea, and when Araspes, one of 
his courtiers and minions, made report unto him that she was 
a woman of incomparable beauty, and therefore worthy to be 
looked on: Nay, rather (quoth he) for that cause I ought to 

Of Curiosity 149 

forbear the sight of her; for if by your persuasion I should yield 
to go and see her, it may peradventure fall out so that she 
herself might tempt and induce me again to repair unto her; 
even then haply when I shall not have such leisure, yea, and sit 
by her and keep her company, neglecting in the meantime the 
weighty affairs of the state. In like manner Alexander the Great 
would not come within the sight of King Darius his wife, not- 
withstanding that she was reported unto him for to be a most 
gallant and beautiful lady: Her mother, an ancient dame and 
elderly matron, he did not stick to visit, but the young gentle- 
woman her daughter (fresh, fair and young) he could not be 
brought so much as once to see. As for us, we can cast a wanton 
eye secretly into the coaches and horse-litters of wives and 
women as they ride, we can look out of our windows, and hang 
with our bodies half forth, to take the full view of them as they 
pass by: and all this while we think that we commit no fault, 
suffering our curious eye and wandering mind to slide and run 
to everything. 

Moreover, it is meet and expedient for the exercise of justice, 
otherwhiles to omit that which well and justly might be done; 
to the end that by that means a man may acquaint himself to 
keep far off from doing or taking anything unjustly. Like as it 
maketh much for temperance and chastity, to abstain other- 
whiles from the use of a man's own wife, that thereby he might 
be never moved to lust after the wife of his neighbour; taking 
this course likewise against curiosity, strive and endeavour 
sometimes to make semblance as though thou didst neither 
hear nor see those things that properly concern thyself: And 
if a man come and bring thee a tale of matters concerning thine 
own household, let it pass and put it over, yea, and those words 
which seem to have been spoken as touching thine own person, 
cast them behind and give no ear thereto. For default of this 
discretion, it was the inquisitive curiosity of King CEdipus which 
entangled and enwrapped him in exceeding great calamities and 
miseries: for when he would needs know who himself was, as 
if he had been not a Corinthian but a stranger, and would needs 
go therefore to the oracle for to be resolved, he met with Laius 
his own father by the way, whom he slew, and so espoused his 
own mother, by whose means he came to be King of Thebes: 
and even then, when he seemed to be a most happy man, he 
could not so stay, but proceeded further to inquire concerning 
himself, notwithstanding his wife did what she possibly could 
to dissuade him from it; but the more earnest she was with him 

150 Plutarch's Morals 

that way, the more instant was he with an old man who was 
privy to all, using all means to enforce him for to bewray that 
secret: at length, when the thing itself was so pregnant that it 
brought him into farther suspicion, and withal when the said 
old man cried out in this manner: 

Alas, how am I at the point perforce 
To utter that which will cause remorse? 

the king, surprised still with his humour of curiosity, notwith- 
standing he was vexed at the very heart, answered : 

And I likewise for my part am as near 
To hear as much, but yet I must it hear. 

So bitter-sweet is that itching-smart humour of curiosity, like 
unto an ulcer or sore, which the more it is rubbed and scratched, 
the more it bleedeth and bloodieth itself. Howbeit he that is 
delivered from this disease, and besides of nature mild and gentle, 
so long as he is ignorant and knoweth not any evil accident, 
may thus say: 

O blessed saint, when evils are past and gone, 
How sage and wise art thou, oblivion. 

And therefore we must by little and little accustom ourselves 
to this, that when there be any letters brought unto us, we do 
not open them presently and in great haste, as many do, who 
if their hands be not quick enough to do the feat, set their teeth 
to, and gnaw in sunder the threads that sewed them up fast. 
Also, if there be a messenger coming toward us from a place 
with any tidings, that we run not to meet him, nor so much as 
once rise and stir for the matter; and if a friend come unto thee 
saying, I have some news to tell you of: Yea, marry (must you 
say again), but I had rather that you brought me something 
indeed that were profitable, fruitful and commodious. I remem- 
ber upon a time when I declaimed and read a lecture at Rome, 
that orator Rustius, whom afterwards Domitian put to death 
for envy that he bare to his glory, happened to be there to hear 
me: Now in the midst of my lecture there came into the place 
a soldier with letters from the emperor, which he delivered to 
Rustius aforesaid, whereupon there was great silence in the 
school, and I myself made some pause, whiles he might read 
the letter, but he would not read it then, nor so much as break 
it open before I had made an end of my discourse, and dismissed 
the auditory: for which all the company there present highly 
praised and admired the gravity of the man. 

Of Curiosity 1 5 1 

Now if one do feed and nourish all that he can (be it but in 
lawful and allowable things) this vein and humour of curiosity, 
so as thereby it becometh in the end mighty and violent, it will 
not be an easy matter to restrain and hold it in when it shall 
break out and run on end to such things as be unlawful and 
forbidden, by reason that it is so used already to intermeddle 
and be doing. But such men as these break open and unseal 
letters (as I said), intrude themselves into the secret counsels of 
their friends; they will needs discover and see those sacred 
mysteries which it is not lawful for to see; in place whereunto 
there is no lawful access they love to be walking; inquire they 
do into the secret deeds and words of kings and princes; and 
notwithstanding there be nothing in the world that causeth 
tyrants, who must of necessity know all, so odious as this kind 
of people, who be called their ears (promoters, I mean, and 
spies), who hear all and bring all unto their ears. The first that 
ever had about him these otacoustes (as a man would say, 
princes' ears) was Darius the younger; a prince distrusting 
himself, suspecting also and fearing all men. As for those 
which were called prosagogidce, that is to say, courries, spies 
and informers, the Dionysii, tyrants of Sicily, intermingled such 
among the Syracusans: whereupon, when the state was altered, 
those were the first that the Syracusans apprehended and 
massacred. Also those whom we call sycophants are of the 
confraternity, house and lineage of these curious persons, save 
only this difference there is, that sycophants inquire what evil 
any man hath either designed or committed; whereas our 
polypragmons hearken after and discover the very calamities 
and misadventures of their neighbours, which happen even 
against their will and purpose: and when they have so done, 
set them abroad to the view of the whole world. 

Furthermore, it is said that the name aliterius came up first 
by occasion of this over-much meddling, called curiosity. For 
when there was (by all likelihood) a great famine at Athens, they 
that had corn kept it in and would not bring it abroad to the 
market, but privily and in the night ground the same into meal 
within their houses: Now these fellows, named aliterii, would 
go up and down closely hearkening where the quern or mill 
went, and thereupon took the said name. Semblably, as it is 
reported, the name of sycophants arose upon the like occasion: 
for when there was a law made, forbidding that any figs should 
be carried forth out of the land, such promoters as bewrayed 
the delinquents and gave information against those that con- 

152 Plutarch's Morals 

veyed figs away, were also thereupon called sycophants. To 
conclude, therefore, it were not unprofitable for these curious 
polypragmons (of whom we have discoursed all this while) to 
know thus much; That they might be ashamed in themselves 
to be noted for manners and profession to be like unto those 
who are accounted the most odious and hateful persons in the 



[In this treatise a man may see the excellent discourses and most 
sound arguments of moral philosophy; the scope whereof is to 
make the scholars and students therein resolute, and to keep them 
from wavering and tottering to and fro ; notwithstanding that either 
the sky were ready to fall upon their heads, or the earth to chink 
and open under their feet. True it is, that in this place Plutarch 
sheweth sufficiently what blindness there is in human wisdom, when 
the question is to pronounce and speak precisely, Wherein consisteth 
true repose and assured felicity? For to teach a man whom he 
calleth virtuous, to search for contentment and quiet rest in his 
own reason, were as much as to fetch light out of darkness and life out 
of death itself. And therefore (for this time) needless it is to treat 
long upon this point, considering that we mind not to dispute or 
declare how insufficient human learning and philosophy is, in com- 
parison of true divinity and theology. For the present this may 
suffice, that seeing he was no better than a pagan who hath disputed 
of this theme, let us receive both this discourse and other such, 
wherein he endeavoureth to withdraw us from vice, and bring us 
unto virtue, as written and penned by a man, guided and conducted 
by a dim and dark light: in which notwithstanding appear certain 
sparks of the truth, which as they are not able to shew the way suffi- 
ciently, so they give them to understand, who be far remote from 
the true light, how miserable and wretched they are every way. 
Proved he had before, that flattery, choler, and curiosity are vices 
that overturn the soul upside down, and transport it so far off that 
it is not at home, nor mistress of herself: and after he had taught 
how a man might reclaim and reduce her again to her own house, 
he treateth now of those means whereby she may be kept quiet, 
peaceable, joyous and contented within. For the effecting hereof, 
at the very entry of this treatise, he proposeth one expedient mean 
to attain thereto, requiring that a man should fortify and defend 
his mind with reasons against the evils and dangers to come : then he 
confuteth the Epicureans, who for to set a man in peace, would 
make him blockish, senseless, and good for nothing: he answereth 
likewise to those who are of opinion that a man may find a certain 
kind of vacation and impassibility without all trouble and molesta- 
tion: which done, he sheweth that reason well ruled and ordered 
is the foundation and ground of our tranquillity: and all in one 
and the same train, he teacheth how a man may be furnished and 
assisted with this reason. Having thus sufficiently in general terms 
discoursed of these premises, he doth particularise and decipher 


154 Plutarch's Morals 

the same point by point, giving fifteen several counsels, whereby a 
man may attain to this contentment and repose of spirit ; the which 
we have distinguished particularly, and shewed in each one the 
substance of them, which I thought not good to insert in this 
place, because the summary should not exceed overmuch. Further- 
more, the said counsels be enriched with notable examples, simili- 
tudes and sentences; which (no doubt) would have been much 
more forcible and effectual, if the principal indeed had been joined 
therewith, to wit, true piety and religion: which hath been clean 
omitted by the author, who indeed never knew what was the only 
true and perfect tranquillity of the soul. Howbeit, wonderful it is, 
how he should proceed so far as he doth, having no other help and 
means but his own self: which may so much the better serve our 
turns, considering that we have aids and guides far more excellent 
to bring us so far, as to make entry, and take assured possession of 
that sovereign good and felicity, whereof he here speaketh.] 

Plutarch to Paccius sendeth greeting, — Overlate it was before 
I received your letter, wherein you requested me to write 
somewhat as touching the tranquillity of the soul, and withal 
of certain places in Plato's dialogue Timceus, which seem to 
require more exact exposition: but so it happened, that at the 
very same time, your friend and mine, Eros, had occasion to 
sail with speed to Rome, upon the receipt of certain letters from 
that right worshipful gentleman Fundanus, by virtue whereof 
he was to depart suddenly and to repair unto him with all 
expedition. By which occasion having not sufficient time and 
leisure to perform your request in such manner as I purposed, 
and yet unwilling that the man coming from me should be seen 
of you empty-handed; I have collected certain notes, chosen 
out of those commentaries which for mine own memory and 
private use I had compiled long before, concerning this argu- 
ment, to wit, The Tranquillity and Contentment of Spirit: 
supposing that you also demand this present discourse, not for 
any pleasure that you take to read a treatise penned curiously, 
and affecting or hunting after fine phrases and exquisite words ; 
but only in regard of some doctrine that may serve your turn 
and help you to the framing of your life as you ought; knowing 
withal full well (for the which I do congratulate and rejoice 
heartily on your behalf) that notwithstanding your inward ac- 
quaintance, friendship and favour with the best and principal 
persons of the city, and that for eloquence you come behind none 
that plead causes at the bar in open court, but are reputed a sin- 
gular orator, yet for all that, you do not as that tragical Merops, 
suffer yourself foolishly and beyond the course of nature to be 
carried away as he was with the vainglory and applause of the 

Tranquillity and Contentment 155 

multitude, when they do admire and account you happy there- 
fore; but still you keep in memory that which oftentime you 
have heard from us; That it is neither a rich patrician's shoe that 
cureth the gout in the feet; nor a costly and precious ring that 
healeth the whitflaw or felon in the fingers; nor yet a princely 
diadem that easeth the headache. For what use is there at all of 
goods and riches to deliver the soul from grief and sorrow, or to 
lead a life in rest and repose, without cares and troubles ? What 
good is there of great honours, promotions, and credit in court? 
unless they that have them know how to use the same well and 
honestly; and likewise if they be without them, can skill how 
to find no miss of them, but be always accompanied with con- 
tentment ; never coveting that which is not ? And what is this 
else but reason accustomed and exercised beforehand, quickly 
to restrain and eftsoons to reprehend the passionate and un- 
reasonable part of the soul, which is given oftentimes to break 
out of her bounds : and not to suffer her to range and vague at 
her pleasure, and to be transported by the objects presented 
unto her? 

Like as therefore Xenophon giveth us good counsel: Always 
to remember the gods, and most of all to worship and honour 
them when we are in prosperity, to the end that whensoever 
we stand in need, we may more boldly invocate and call upon 
them, with full assurance that they will supply Our necessities, 
being thus beforehand made propitious and gracious unto us; 
even so, wise men and such as are of good conceit, ought always 
to be furnished and well provided of reasons sufficient to serve 
their turn for to encounter their passions before they arise, to 
the end that being once laid up in store, they may do most good 
when time serveth. For as curst and angry mastiffs by nature, 
which at every noise that they hear keep an eager baying and 
barking as if they were affrighted, become quiet and appeased 
by one only voice which is familiar unto them, and wherewith 
they have been acquainted; so it is no small pain and trouble 
to still and compose the passions of the mind (skittish as they 
be and grown wild) unless a man have ready at hand proper 
and familiar reasons to repress the same so soon as ever they begin 
to stir and grow out of order. 

Now as touching those who affirm that if a man would live 
in tranquillity and rest, he ought not to meddle nor deal in 
many affairs, either in public or private: First and foremost 
thus I say, that they would make us pay dear for tranquillity 
of mind, when they would have us buy it with idleness and doing 


Plutarch's Morals 

no tning; which were as much as if they advised each one to 
do as Electra did to her sick brother Orestes, when she said 
unto him : 

Lie still, poor wretch, and keep thy bed, 
Stir not from thence, and have no dread. 

But surely as this were untoward physic for the body, to pre- 
scribe for the allaying of pain a medicine that would benumb 
and stupefy the senses; so verily he were no better physician 
for the soul, who to deliver her from trouble and grief, ordained 
that she should be made idle, slugglish, soft and tender, which, 
in one word, is as much as to forget all duty and to betray 
friends, kinsfolk and country. Moreover, a false position it is: 
That they enjoy tranquillity of life who intermeddle not in much 
business: for if that were true, women should live in more 
repose and quietness of mind than men, forasmuch as they 
keep home and sit still within doors for the most part, and 
seldom go abroad: but now, although it cannot be denied but 
that as the poet Hesiodus saith: 

Cold Boreas, a wind that blows 

From northern pole full oft, 
Doth never pierce the tender skin 

Of damsel smooth and soft, 

yet many heart-griefs, troubles, perturbations, discontentments 
and cares arising upon jealousy, superstition, pride, ambition, 
foolish and vain opinions (which are so many as hardly a man 
is able to number them) find way and entrance even to the 
secret chambers and cabinets of our fine and dainty dames: 
And Laertes, who lived apart for the space of twenty years in 
the country, 

With one old woman and no more 

Who meat and drink set him before, 

far from his native country, his own home, from court and king- 
dom ; yet nevertheless he had always dwelling with him sadness 
of heart, accompanied with languishing, idleness and heavy 
silence. And more than that, this non-employment in affairs 
is that which many times hath cast some men into a dumpish 
melancholy and heaviness of spirit, like to him of whom Homer 
thus writeth: 

Here sat Achilles, swift of foot, by line descended right 
From Jupiter, though son he were of Peleus worthy knight, 
And stirr'd not from his fleet in road, but in an angry fit 
Would neither fight in open field, nor yet in counsel sit : 
Thus idle he abode so long until his heart within 
Consum'd, and nothing wish'd he more than battle to begin. 

Tranquillity and Contentment 157 

Whereupon, being in a passionate humour, and thinking it a 

great indignity thus to wear away and do nothing, he breaketh 

forth himself afterwards into this speech: 

But here sit I close to my ships, from action more and less 
An idle lusk to load the earth, I cannot but confess. 

Insomuch as Epicurus himself, that great patron and maintainer 

of pleasure, would not advise nor thinketh meet that those who 

by nature are of an ambitious and aspiring mind, or desirous of 

glory, should take their ease and sit still, but by the guidance 

and direction of their natural inclination, to manage the weighty 

affairs of state and govern the commonweal: saying, that men 

born for action would be more troubled and discontented in 

mind with doing nothing, namely, when they see how they miss 

and fail of that which so greatly they desired. Howbeit I must 

note the absurd folly of the man and his want of judgment, in 

that he seemeth to call and exhort unto the rule of weal-public 

not those who are able and sufficient, but such only as cannot 

away with a private life and sitting still: neither ought we to 

measure and determine either the tranquillity or trouble of the 

spirit by the paucity or multitude of affairs, but rather by their 

honesty or dishonesty: for as we have already said, no less 

discontentment and trouble groweth to the mind by neglecting 

and omitting things honest, than by affecting and committing 

things dishonest. As for those who have determinately set by 

one special kind of life as void of all grief and trouble, to wit, 

some making choice to live as husbandmen in tillage of the 

ground; others to lead a single and unmarried life, and some 

again have esteemed a king's life to be it: to such Menander 

answereth prettily in these verses: 

I thought one while that rich and moneyed men, 
O Phanias, who were not hard bestead 
To pay for use in every hundred ten, 
Do neither groan nor sigh all night in bed : 
Nor as they turn and toss from top to toe 
Eftsoons, woe is me, alas, what shall I do? 
Breathe out from heart full pensive and opprest, 
But sweetly take repose and sleep in rest. 

And coming more nearly unto the point, when he perceived that 

rich men were as restless and as much disquieted as the poor, 

he concludeth thus: 

But now, I wot, that life and pensive pain 
Are near of kin and cousin-germans twain. 
Who live in wealth, I see, feel grief of heart, 
And men in honour, of sorrows have their part 
No less than those whose want and penury 
Doth age with them and keep them company. 


Plutarch's Morals 

And the case is all one as with those that be either timorous 
or stomach-sick at sea, when they be under sail: for supposing 
that they shall be better at ease, they go out of a bark into a 
brigandine, and out of it into a galley: but they find no good 
thereby, for that they carry about them still choler and a false 
heart, which are the cause of this their distemperature; even 
so, eftsoons to change from one course of life unto another, is 
not the means to deliver the mind from troubles and perturba- 
tions, which hinder the repose and quietness thereof. And 
what be these troubles? even want of experience in affairs; 
inconsiderate rashness and default of discretion; insufficiency 
and want of knowledge how to use and accommodate things 
aright to the present occasions. These be they that molest and 
vex as well the rich as the poor; these torment and hurt single 
persons no less than married folk. In regard hereof, some 
having bidden the court and civil affairs farewell, yet soon after 
again could not away with a private and quiet life. And for no 
other cause but this, many make all the means they can to be 
advanced to high places, and to insinuate themselves into 
princes' courts; and when they have attained thereto, anon 
repent them and mislike of that course : But true it is the poet 
Ion saith: 

He that lieth sick is hard to please, 

He wants advice that should him ease. 

For his wife is a trouble unto him; the physician he findeth 
fault with, and the bed is not to his mind ; besides : 

A friend comes to visit, he welcomes him nought, 
And when he departs, unkind he is thought. 

But afterwards, as the disease beginneth to break away or 
decline, and the former temperature of the body to return, 
health cometh again, which maketh everything pleasant and 
agreeable; insomuch as he who the day before was ready upon 
a peevishness of stomach to cast up dainty eggs, fine amydum 
and marchpain, and the fairest cooked manchet that is, will be 
content the morrow after, yea, and glad with all his heart to 
feed savourly and with a good stomach of downright household 
bread, of some olives or cresses. 

Such a contentment and alteration worketh judgment of 
reason in every kind and course of life. It is reported that 
King Alexander the Great, hearing Anaxarchus the philosopher 
discoursing and maintaining this position: That there were 
worlds innumerable: fell a-weeping: and when his friends and 

Tranquillity and Contentment 159 

familiars about him asked what he ailed. Have I not (quoth 
he) good cause to weep, that being as there are an infinite 
number of worlds, I am not yet the lord of one? Whereas 
Crates, having no more than a wallet at his neck and a poor 
threadbare cloak upon his back, spent his whole life in mirth 
and joy, laughing always full merrily as if it had been always a 
festival holiday. As for Agamemnon, he complained in these 
words, and thought it an intolerable burden to be a king and 
commander of so great a people: 

Wot well you see Atreus his son, 

King Agamemnon hight: 
Whom Jupiter clogs more with care 

Than any mortal wight. 

Contrariwise Diogenes, when he was to be bought and sold 
among other slaves in open market, scoffed at the crier who 
made sale; and lying along on the ground, would not so much 
as rise when he was bidden to stand up, but cavilled with him 
after a mocking and jesting manner, What (quoth he), and if 
you sold a fish would you bid it rise up? Likewise Socrates 
discoursed familiarly with his fellows and followers as touching 
philosophy, even when he was in prison. Whereas Phaethon, 
notwithstanding he was mounted up into heaven, wept for anger 
and despight that no man would give him the rule and regiment 
of the chariot-steeds belonging to the sun his father. And as 
a shoe is wrested and turned according to the fashion of a 
crooked or splay-foot, but never doth the foot writhe to the 
form of a shoe ; even so it is for all the world with the dispositions 
of men's minds; they frame their lives and make them like 
thereto. For it is not use and custom that causeth the best life 
to be pleasant also unto them that have made choice thereof, 
as some one haply is of opinion; but wisdom rather and dis- 
cretion maketh that life which is best to be also sweetest and 
most pleasant. Since that therefore the source and fountain of 
all tranquillity and contentment of spirit is in ourselves, let us 
cleanse and purify the same spring as clean as possibly we can, 
that all outward and casual occurrences whatsoever may be 
made familiar and agreeable unto us, knowing once how to use 
them well. 

If things go cross, we ought not, iwis, 
To fret; for why? such choler will not boot: 
But he that knows when ought is done amiss, 
To set all straight, shall 'chieve full well, I wot. 

Plato therefore compared our life to a game at tables; wherein 

160 Plutarch's Morals 

the player is to wish for the luckiest cast of the dice, but what- 
soever his chance is, he must be sure to play it well, and make 
the best of it: Now of these two points, the former, to wit, a 
good throw, is not in our power and choice; but the other 
resteth in us, namely, whatsoever our lot is, to take in good 
worth and to dispose everything in that place where it may 
profit most if it fortuned well: and contrariwise, if it fell out 
cross, where it may do least harm. This (I say) is our part and 
duty to perform, if we be as wise as we should be. As for brain- 
sick fools, and such as know not how to carry themselves in 
this life (like unto those that have crazy and diseased bodies, 
who neither can abide burning heat nor chilling cold), as in 
prosperity they spread and set up their sails too high, so in 
adversity they strike them as low. Troubled they are mightily 
with both extremities j or to speak more truly, with themselves, 
as much in the one as the other, and no less in that state which 
yieldeth those things that we call and repute goods. Theodorus, 
that infamous philosopher who for his profane opinion was 
surnamed Atheos, that is to say, the atheist, was wont to say: 
That he delivered his speeches with the right hand to his 
auditors and scholars, but they took the same with their left; 
even so ignorant and untaught persons many times when fortune 
presenteth herself unto them on the right hand, receive her 
awkly, turning to the left side undecently, and by that means 
commit many untoward and lewd parts. But those that be 
wise do far better: for as thyme yieldeth unto bees the quickest 
and driest honey, even so they out of the most unfortunate 
accidents that be, can skill oftentimes to get jomewhat which is 
agreeable and commodious unto themselves. 

This is then the first and principal point wherein a man ought 
to be trained and exercised, upon this must he study and 
meditate. And like as that fellow, when he flung a stone at a 
curst bitch, missed her, and chanced to hit his step-mother, 
saying withal : It makes no matter ; for it hath not lighted amiss ; 
even so we may turn all our fortune to our own purpose, and 
make the best use of it, in case things fall out otherwise than we 
would or meant. Diogenes his hap was to be banished and 
driven out of his own country; yet this exile of his proved not 
ill to him; for by that means and thereupon he began to study 
and profess philosophy. Zeno, the Cittiaean, had but one 
frigate or fly-boat left him, and hearing news that both it and 
all therein was cast away, drowned and perished in the midst of 
the sea: O Fortune (quoth he), thou hast done well to drive 

Tranquillity and Contentment i 6 1 

us again to put on our poor and simple scholar's habit, and to 
send us to our gallery and school of philosophy. 

What should hinder us, then, but that we may follow the 
examples of these men. Art thou deprived and put out of some 
public office or magistracy which thou didst exercise ? Go and 
live in the country; there follow thine own business, and ply 
thy private affairs. Hast thou made suit and great means to 
be entertained in the court, and to wind into special favour 
with some prince and potentate, and after all thy travail suffered 
repulse? Well, thou shalt live privately at home, without 
danger, without trouble. Again, Art thou entered into action, 
and dost thou manage state affairs, wherein thou hast cares 
enough, and no time to breathe thyself? 

The wholesome waters and hot bains 
Do not so much allay our pains: 
And if our limbs be dull or sick, 
Refresh the same and make them quick: 
As when a man himself doth see 
Advanc'd to honour and high degree, 
His glory, care and pain doth ease, 
No travail then will him displease; 

as Pindarus saith very well: Art thou in some disgrace, and 
cast out of favour with reproach, by reason of some slanderous 
calumniation or envy? Thou hast a gale of forewind at the 
poop, which will soon bring thee directly to the Muses and to 
the academy; that is to say, to follow thy book and study 
philosophy: for this was Plato's help when he was in disfavour 
with Denys the Tyrant. And therefore one means this is (of 
no small importance) to work contentment in a man's mind; 
namely, to look back unto the state of famous and renowned 
persons, and to see whether they (haply) have not suffered the 
like at any time; as for example: Art thou discontented with 
thy childless estate, for that thy wife hath brought thee no 
children? Do but mark the kings of Rome, how there was not 
one of them that left the crown unto his son. Is it poverty that 
pincheth thee, so as thou art not able to endure it? Tell me 
which of all the Boeotians wouldest thou chuse to resemble 
sooner than Epaminondas ? or what Roman wouldest thou be 
like unto rather than Fabricius? But say thy wife hath 
played false by thee, and made thee wear horns? Didst thou 
never read that epigram of King Agis at Delphos? 

'Typas Kal rpacpfpas J /SatrtXet!'* "A71S fj.' avidyKev 
Agis, of sea and land a crowned king, 
Gave me sometime a sacred offering. 

1 Not rpvfapai, as it is commonly printed, and according to which 


1 62 Plutarch's Morals 

And yet as mighty a prince as he was, you have heard (I am sure) 
that Alcibiades lay with his wife Tunaea, and she would not bash 
to call the son that she had by him in adultery Alcibiades, 
especially amongst her women and waiting-maidens, whispering 
and speaking as much softly unto them: But what of all that? 
This crooked cross was no bar unto King Agis, but that he 
proved the greatest and most renowned personage of all the 
Greeks in his time. No more was it any hindrance to Stilpo, 
but that he lived all the days of his life most merrily, and no 
philosopher like to him in those days, notwithstanding he had a 
daughter that played the harlot: and when Metrocles the cynic 
reproached him therewith ; Is this (quoth he) my fault or hers ? 
To which when Metrocles answered again: The fault is indeed 
hers, but the infortunity and mishap is yours: What now 
(replied Stilpo again), how can that be? Are not (I pray you) 
all faults rightly named slips or falls ? Yes, truly, said the other : 
And are not falls (quoth Stilpo) mischances or misfortunes? 
Metrocles could not deny it: Why then (inferred Stilpo at last), 
what are mischances or misfortunes other than infortunities and 
mishaps to them whose mischances they are? By this mild 
kind of sorites and philosophical reasoning thus from point to 
point, he shewed that the reproachful language of this cynical 
Metrocles was nothing else but a vain and foolish baying and 
barking of a cur-dog. 

But on the contrary side, the most part of men are provoked 
and troubled not only for the vices of their friends, familiars, 
and kinsfolk, but also of their very enemies. For reproachful 
taunts, anger, envy, malice and spightful jealousies are the 
mischiefs and plagues (I must needs say) of such especially that 
have them; howbeit they molest and vex those also that are 
witless and without discretion, no otherwise than the hasty 
and choleric fits of our neighbours, the peevish and froward 
dispositions of our familiar acquaintance, and some shrewd 
demeanours of our servants in that they go about: with which 
methinks you also troubling and disquieting yourself as much 
as with anything else, like unto those physicians of whom 
Sophocles thus writeth: 

Who bitter choler cleanse and scour 
With drugs as bitter and as sour, 

do unseemly and not iwis for the credit of your person, thus to 

Budaeus hath translated it, and made no sense at all in Latin. But in 
Homer the same manner of phrase is used, Iliad, £■ o'i y! ofoovaiv eirl 
pv(pepi]v re Kal vypyv, i.e., over land and sea. 

Tranquillity and Contentment 163 

chafe and fret at their passions and imperfections beyond all 
reason, and shew yourself as passionate as they. For surely 
the affairs and negotiations wherewith you are put in trust, and 
which be managed by your direction, are not executed ordinarily 
by the ministry of such persons whose dealings be plain, simple 
and direct, as instruments most meet and fit for such a purpose ; 
but for the most part by crooked, rough and crabbed pieces. 
To reform and amend these enormities, I would not have you 
think that it is either your work and duty, or an enterprise 
otherwise easily performed. But if you making use of these, 
being such by nature as the chirurgeons do of tooth-drawing 
pincers and those instruments wherewith they do bring the 
edges of a wound together, will shew yourself mild, moderate, 
and tractable in every respect, according as the present occasion 
will give leave ; surely you shall not receive so much discontent- 
ment and displeasure at the untoward and unhappy dealings of 
others, as joy in the conscience of your own good disposition, 
as making this account, that such ministers of yours do but their 
kind, like as dogs when they bark: But if you feed and cherish 
this pusillanimity and weakness of yours, you shall be sure to 
heap up many troubles and follies of other men ere you be 
aware, which will be ready to fall and run as into some low 
ground and hollow trench, unto that weakness of yours. For 
what should I say, that some philosophers reprove the pity and 
commiseration which we have for them that are in distress and 
misery, acknowledging that it is a good and charitable deed to 
help and succour such as be in calamity, but not commending 
that condolence and fellow-feeling with our neighbours, as if 
we yielded with them unto fortune? And more than so, the 
same philosophers will not permit and give us leave, in case we 
be subject to some vice and ill disposed, for to be seen and 
known for to grieve and sorrow therefore : but rather to correct 
and amend what is amiss, without any shew at all of sad cheer 
and heaviness; which being so, consider then how little reason 
and small cause we have, nay, how absurd it were, that we 
should suffer ourselves to be troubled, vexed and angry, in case 
all those who commerce and converse with us deal not so well 
and kindly as they should? 

But above all things, my good friend Paccius, let us see to 
this, that our self-love deceive and seduce us not; let us beware 
(I say) that we do not so much shew an hatred and detestation 
of wickedness and sin in general; as bewray some private and 
particular regard of our own, in that we seem so to abhor and 


Plutarch's Morals 

dread the naughtiness of those that have to do with us. For to 
be exceeding much moved and beyond all measure affectionate 
at some time to such and such affairs ; to covet (I say) and pursue 
the same over-hotly, and otherwise than is meet and beseeming; 
or contrariwise, to loath, despise, and abhor the same, must 
needs breed discontentments, suspicions, and offences in those 
persons by whom we seem either to have been prevented and 
disappointed of some things, or to have run and fallen too soon 
upon other: But he that is used to carry himself cheerfully and 
with moderation in his affairs (fall out as they will), and can 
frame to their events, he will soon learn to negotiate and con- 
verse with any man in all dexterity and gentle behaviour. 

Well, then, let us set in hand again to discourse of those 
matters which we have intermitted for a while : for like as in a 
fever all things that we taste seem at the first bitter and un- 
savoury; but when we see others take without any shew and 
signification of dislike the same which we spit out, then we 
blame no more either meats or drinks, but lay the fault upon 
our disease; even so, when we perceive that other men have 
entered upon and gone through the same affairs with great 
alacrity, and without any pain at all, whereof we complained 
and made much ado; let us for shame cease to find fault and 
be offended so much at the things. And therefore if at any 
time there shall befall unto us some adverse and crooked accident 
against our wills, it will be very good for the working of our 
contentment in mind, not to pass over but to regard such things 
as at other times have happened to our minds and as we could 
wish them ; but to confer them together, and by a good medley 
of them both to darken and dor the worst with laying the 
better to. But now, whereas we are wont when our eyes be 
dazzled and offended with beholding that which is too bright 
and glittering, to refresh and comfort our sight again with 
looking upon pleasant colours of flowers and green grass ; herein 
contrariwise we direct our minds and cogitations upon heavy 
and dolorous objects, and violently force our thoughts to be 
amused upon the remembrance of calamities and adverse for- 
tunes, plucking them perforce as it were from the consideration 
of better. And here, in this place, methinks I may very fitly 
apply that sentence to our present purpose, which was said to a 
busy and curious person: 

Ah, spiteful mind and most envious heart, 
Why others' faults dost thou so quickly spy 
With eagle's sight, but in thine own thou art 
Stark blind or else dost wink with owlet's eye ? 

Tranquillity and Contentment 165 

Even so, good sir, how is it that you regard and advise so 
wistly your own misery and calamity, making it always apparent 
and fresh in remembrance, but upon your present prosperity 
you set not mind? And like as ventoses, cupping glasses or 
boxes draw the most corrupt humours to them out of the 
flesh ; even so you gather against yourself the worst things you 
have, being no better than the merchant of Chios, who when he 
sold to others a great quantity of the best wine, sought up and 
down tasting every vessel until he met with that for his own 
dinner, which began to sour and was little better than stark 
naught. This man had a servant who ran away, and being 
demanded what his master had done unto him, for which he 
should shew him a pair of heels, Because (quoth he) when he 
had plenty of that which was good, he would needs seek for 

And most men verily are of the same nature, who passing 
by good and desirable things, which be (as a man would say) 
the pleasant and potable liquors that they have, betake them- 
selves to those that be harsh, bad and unsavoury. But Aristip- 
pus was of another humour; for like a wise man and one that 
knew his own good, he was always disposed to make the best of 
every occurrence, raising and lifting up himself to that end of 
the balance which mounted aloft, and not to that which went 
downward. It fortuned one day that he lost a fair manor or 
lordship of his own, and when one of his friends above the rest 
made most semblance to lament with him, and to be angry with 
fortune in his behalf; Hear you (quoth he), know you not that 
yourself have but one little farm in the whole world, and that 
I have yet three houses more left, with good lands lying to them ? 
Yes, marry do I (quoth the other): Why then (quoth Aristippus 
again), wherefore do not we rather pity your case, and condole 
with you ? For it is mere madness to grieve and sorrow for those 
things that are lost and gone, and not to rejoice for that which 
is saved. And like as little children, if a man chance to take 
from them but one of their gauds, among many other toys that 
they play withal, throw away the rest for very curst-heart, and 
then fall a-puling, weeping and crying out aright; semblably, 
as much folly and childishness it were, if when fortune 
thwarteth us in one thing, we be so far out of the way and dis- 
quieted therewith, that with our plaints and moans we make 
all her other favours unprofitable unto us. But will some one 
say, What is it that we have ? Nay, What is it that we have not ? 
might he rather say: One man is in honour, another hath a tan 

1 66 Plutarch's Morals 

and goodly house; one hath a wife to his mind, and another 
a trusty friend. 

Antipater of Tarsus, the philosopher, when he drew toward 
his end and the hour of his death, in recounting and reckoning 
up all the good and happy days that ever he saw in his lifetime, 
left not out of this roll so much as the bon-voyage that he had 
when he sailed from Cilicia to Athens. And yet we must not 
forget nor omit those blessings and comforts of this life which 
we enjoy in common with many more, but to make some 
reckoning and account of them: and namely to joy in this, that 
we live ; that we have our health ; that we behold the light of the 
sun; that we have neither war abroad nor civil sedition and 
dissension at home ; but that the land yieldeth itself arable and 
to be tilled, and the sea navigable to every one that will, without 
fear of danger; that it is lawful for us to speak and keep silence 
at our pleasure; that we have liberty to negotiate and deal in 
affairs, or to rest and be at our repose. And verily the enjoying 
of these good things present will breed the greater contentment 
in our spirit, if we would but imagine within ourselves that they 
were absent; namely, by calling to mind eftsoons what a miss 
and desire those persons have of health, who be sick and 
diseased. How they wish for peace, who are afflicted with 
wars. How acceptable it is either to a stranger or a mean person 
and unknown, for to be advanced unto honour, or to be friended 
in some famous and puissant city. And contrariwise, what a 
great grief it is to forego these things when a man once hath 
them. And surely a thing cannot be great or precious when we 
have lost it, and the same of no valour and account all the while 
we have and enjoy it: for the not being thereof, addeth no price 
and worth thereto. 

Neither ought we to hold these things right great and excellent, 
whiles we stand always in fear and trembling to think that we 
shall be deprived and bereft of them, as if they were some 
worthy things : and yet all the time that they be sure and safe 
in our possession, neglect and little regard them as if they were 
common and of no importance. But we ought to make use of 
them whiles they be ours, and that with joy, in this respect 
especially, that the loss of them, if it shall so fall out, we may 
bear more meekly and with greater patience. Howbeit, most 
men are of this opinion (as Arcesilaus was wont to say), that 
they ought to follow diligently with their eye and cogitation the 
poems, pictures and statues of others, and come close unto them 
for to behold and peruse exactly each of them ; yea, and consider 

Tranquillity and Contentment 167 

every part and point therein from one end to the other: whiles 
in the meantime they neglect and let alone their own lives and 
manners; notwithstanding there be many unpleasant sights to 
be spied and observed therein: looking evermore without, and 
admiring the advancements, welfare and fortunes of others: 
much like as adulterers who have an eye after their neighbours' 
wives, but loath and set naught by their own. 

And verily this one point also is of great consequence for the 
settling of a man's mind in sure repose; namely, to consider 
principally himself, his own estate and condition; or at least- 
wise (if he do not so) yet to look back unto those that be his 
inferiors and under him ; and not as the most sort do, who love 
always to look forward and to compare themselves with their 
betters and superiors. As, for example, slaves that are bound 
in prison and lie in irons, repute them happy who are abroad at 
liberty; such as be abroad and at liberty, think their state 
blessed who be manumised and made free; being once affran- 
chised, they account themselves to be in very good case if they 
were citizens; and being citizens they esteem rich men most 
happy ; the rich imagine it a gay matter to be lords and princes ; 
lords and princes have a longing desire to be kings and monarchs ; 
kings and monarchs aspire still higher and would be gods; and 
yet they rest not so, unless they may have the power to flash 
lightnings and shoot thunderbolts as well as Jupiter. Thus, 
whiles they evermore come short of that which is above them 
and covet still after it, they enjoy no pleasure at all of those 
things that they have, nor be thankful therefore. 

The treasures great I care not for 

Of Gyges king so rich in gold; 
Such avarice I do abhor, 

Nor money will I touch untold. 
I never long'd with gods above, 

In their high works for to compare: 
Grand seignories I do not love, 

Far from mine eyes all such things are. 

A Thracian he was that protested thus. But some other, 
that were a Chian, a Galatian or a Bithynian (I dare warrant 
you), not contenting himself with his part of honour, credit and 
authority in his own country and among his neighbours and 
fellow-citizens, would be ready to weep and expostulate the 
matter with tears, if he might not also wear the habit and 
ornaments of a patrician or senator of Rome. And say it were 
granted and allowed him to be a noble senator, he would not be 
quiet until he were a Roman lord praetor: Be he lord praetor, he 

1 68 Plutarch's Morals 

will aspire to a consulship; and when he is created consul, 
whine he will and cry if he were not nominated and pronounced 
the former of the twain, but elected in the second place. And 
I pray you what is all this? What doeth a man herein but 
gather pretended excuses of ingratitude to fortune, in punishing 
and chastising himself after this manner? But the man who 
is wise and of sound judgment, in case some one or two among 
so infinite thousands of us mortal men 

Whom sun from heaven so daily doth behold, 
Who feed on fruits of earth so manifold, 

be either more honoured or richer than himself, will not therefore 
be cast down straightway, and sit mourning and lamenting for 
sorrow; but rather in the way as he goeth, and whensoever he 
cometh abroad, salute and bless with praise and thanksgiving 
that good fortune of his and blessed angel that guideth his life, 
for that his lot is to live far better, more at heart's ease, and in 
greater reputation than many millions of millions of other men. 
For true it is, that in the solemn games at Olympia, no champion 
may chuse his concurrents with whom he is to wrestle or enter 
into combat for a prize: but in this life, our state standeth so, 
and our affairs be in that manner composed, that every man 
hath means to match, yea, and excel many others, and so to 
bear himself aloft, that he be rather envied than envious ; unless 
haply he be such an one as will presume to deal with Briareus or 
Hercules for the mastery. 

Well, when thou shalt behold some great lord or honourable 
personage borne aloft in a litter upon men's shoulders, stand not 
wondering so much at him, but rather cast thine eyes down a 
little lower, and look upon the poor porters that carry him. 
Again, when thou shalt repute that great monarch Xerxes a right 
happy man, for that he made a bridge of ships over the Straits 
of Hellespont; consider withal those painful slaves, who under 
the very whip and for fear of scourging, digged through the 
mountain Athos, and made passage that way for an arm of the 
sea; as also those miserable wretches who had their ears cropt 
and their noses cut off, for that the foresaid bridge by a mighty 
tempest was in jointed and broken; and therewith imagine with 
thyself what those silly souls might think, and how happy they 
would repute thy life and condition in comparison of their own. 

Socrates upon a time when one of his familiar friends seemed 
to complain and say: What a costly place is this? How dear 
are things sold in this city? The wine of Chios will cost a 

Tranquillity and Contentment i 69 

pound; purple is sold for three, and a pint of honey is held at 
five drachms : took him by the hand and led him to the meal- 
hall. Lo (quoth he), you may buy here half a sextare of good 
meal for an halfpenny. The market (God be thanked) is cheap : 
from thence he brought him into an oil-cellar, and where they 
sold olives: Here you shall have (quoth he) a measure called 
chcenix for two brazen dodkins (a good market, believe me). 
He took him then with him to the brokers' shops that sold 
clothes, where a man might buy a suit of apparel for ten drachms. 
You see (quoth he) that the pennyworths are reasonable, and 
things be bought and sold good cheap throughout the city; 
even so we, when we shall hear other men say; Our state is 
but mean, we are exceeding bare, and our condition is passing 
base: For why? We cannot come to be consuls, we shall never 
be rulers and governors of provinces, nor rise to the highest 
places of authority. We may very well answer in this wise; 
Nay marry, but our case is right good; we live gallantly, and 
lead a blessed and happy life : we beg not ; we go not from door 
to door to crave folks' alms; we are no porters; we bear no 
burdens; neither like parasites and smell-feasts do we get our 
bread by flattery. But forasmuch as we are for the most part 
grown to this folly, that we are accustomed to live rather 
according to others than ourselves, and our nature is so far 
corrupted with a kind of jealous affectation and envy, that it 
joyeth not so much in her own proper goods, as grieveth at the 
welfare of another, I would advise you not only to regard those 
things that be resplendent, glorious and renowned in those whom 
you admire and esteem so happy; but also to set open and lift 
up the veil a little, and to draw (as it were) that glittering curtain 
of outward shew, appearance and opinion that men have of 
them which covereth all, and so to look in. Certes, you shall find 
that they have within them many matters of trouble, many 
grievances and discontentments. 

That noble Pittacus, so famous for his valour and fortitude, 
and as much renowned also for wisdom and justice, feasted upon 
a time certain of his friends that were strangers: and his wife 
coming in at midst of the dinner, being angry at somewhat else, 
overthrew the table, and there lay all under foot. Now when 
his guests and friends were wondrously dismayed and abashed 
hereat, Pittacus made no more ado at the matter, but turning 
unto them: There is not one of us all (quoth he) but he hath 
his cross, and one thing or other to exercise his patience: and 
for mine own part, this is the only thing that checketh my 

170 Plutarch's Morals 

felicity: for were it not for this shrew my wife, I were the 
happiest man in the world : So that of me may these verses be 
well verified : 

; This man who while he is in street 

Or public place is happy thought, 
No sooner sets in house his feet 

But woe is him : and not for nought. 
His wife him rules, and that's a spight, 
She chides, she fights, from morn to night. 

Well, my masters, you have many occasions (I am sure) that 
vex you: as for myself I grieve at nothing. Many such secret 
sores there be that put them to anguish and pain who are rich 
and in high authority, yea, and trouble kings and princes them- 
selves; howsoever the common people see no such matter; and 
why? their pomp and outward glory covereth and hideth all. 
For when we read thus in Homer: 

O happy king, Sir Agamemnon hight, 
The son of Atreus, that worthy knight 
Born in good hour, and lull'd in fortune's lap, 
Most puissant, rich, and thrall to no mishap : 

this is a rehearsal surely of an outward beatitude only, in regard 
of his arms, horses and men of war about him: for the voices 
which are breathed out and uttered of his passions, do falsify 
that opinion of him, and bear witness of the contrary: as may 
appear by this testimony of himself in Homer: 

Great Jupiter, god Saturn's son, 
Hath plung'd me deep in woe begone. 

Euripides also to the like effect: 

Your state, old sir, I happy deem, 

And his no less I do admire 
Who led his life, unknown, unseen, 

From danger far, from vain desire. 

By these and such-like meditations, a man may by little and 
little spend and diminish that quarrelsome and complaining dis- 
contentment of the mind against fortune, in debasing and casting 
down his own condition with the wonderful admiration of his 
neighbour's state. But there is nothing that doth so much hurt 
unto our tranquillity of mind as this, when our affection and 
will to a thing is disproportion ed unto our might and power; as 
if we set up greater sails than our vessel will bear, building our 
hopes and desires as castles in the air without a sound foundation, 
and promising ourselves more than reason is; for afterwards, 

Tranquillity and Contentment 171 

when by proof we see that we cannot reach thereto, and find 
that the success is not answerable to our conceit, we grumble 
by and by against fortune, and we blame our destiny; whereas 
we should accuse our own folly and rashness. For neither he 
that would seem to shoot an arrow out of a plough, or ride upon 
an ox back to hunt the hare, can say that he is unlucky; nor 
he that goeth about to catch the hart and hind with fisher's 
drag-nets, or with gins, snares and traps, may justly find fault 
with his fortune, and give out that some wicked angel doth 
cross him, or malignant spirit haunt him, if he fail and miss of his 
purpose: but surely such are to condemn their own foolishness 
and inconsiderate temerity, in attempting things impossible. 

And what might be the cause of such errors and gross over- 
sight? surely our fond and blind self-love. This is it that 
causeth men to affect ever to be foremost; this moveth them 
to strive and contend for the highest place; this maketh them 
opinionative in everything, aiming and reaching at all things 
unsatiably, and never rest contented. For it sufficeth them not 
to be both rich and learned ; eloquent withal and mighty; good 
fellows at the table and pleasant companions; minions and 
favourites of kings and princes; rulers of cities and governors 
of provinces; unless they may be masters also of the swiftest 
and hottest hounds for running ; the principal horses for service 
and stomach; quails and cocks of the best game for fight; If 
they fail in any of these, they be cast down, and their hearts are 
done. Denys, the elder of that name, not being contented and 
satisfied in mind that he was the most mighty and puissant 
tyrant in his time; but because he was not a better poet than 
Philoxenus; nor able to discourse and dispute so learnedly as 
Plato; in great choler and indignation he cast the one into a 
dungeon within the stone quarries, where malefactors, felons 
and slaves were put to punishment; and confined the other as a 
caitiff, and sent him away into the isle JEgme. Alexander the 
Great was not of that disposition, who when Brison, the famous 
runner, in the race contended with him for the best game in 
footmanship, and for the nonce, to please the king, seemed to 
faint and lag behind, and so to yield the honour of the course 
unto him ; being advertised thereof, was mightily offended and 
displeased with him for it. Very wisely, therefore, and aptly to 
this purpose the poet Homer, when he had given this commenda- 
tion of Achilles : 

Like unto him there is not one in field 

Of all the Greeks that serve with spear and shield. 

172 Plutarch's Morals 

he inf erred presently upon it: 

In feats of arms ; but for to speak and plead 
Others there be who can him teach and lead. 

Megabyzus the Persian, a great lord, went up one day into 
the shop of Apelles, where he used to paint; and when he was 
about to speak (I wot not what) as touching painting-craft, 
Apelles, not enduring to hear him talk so foolishly, stayed him 
and stopped his mouth, saying prettily thus unto him : So long, 
sir, as you held your tongue, you were taken to be some great 
man, by reason of your chains, corquans, and brooches of gold; 
your purple robes also, which together with your silence com- 
mended your person : but now the very prentice boys here, who 
grind ochre and such-like colours, are ready to laugh at you, 
hearing you talk so foolishly, you know not what. And yet 
some there be who think that the Stoics do but mock and jest 
when they hear them hold this opinion: That the wise man 
(such as they imagine to themselves) is not only prudent, just 
and valiant, but ought also to be called an orator, a captain, 
and a poet, a rich and mighty man, yea and a very king; whiles 
they themselves will needs be invested in these titles, and if 
they be not, then they are displeased and miscontent by and by; 
what reason they have so to be let them answer. Sure I am 
that among the gods themselves, some have power one way, and 
some another; and thereupon took their sundry denominations 
accordingly, and rest contented therewith: as for example, one 
is surnamed Enyalius, i.e., the god of war; another Mantous, 
i.e., the president of prophecies; and a third Cerdous, which is 
as much to say, as the patron of those that gain by traffic. 
And hereupon it is that Jupiter in Homer, forbidding Venus to 
meddle in warlike and martial affairs, as nothing pertinent unto 
her, sendeth her to weddings and bride-chambers, and bids her 
attend them. 

Moreover, some qualities and things there be that we seem 
to affect and wish; the which are in nature contrary, and will 
not concur and sort well together: as for example, the profession 
of eloquence and the study of arts mathematical require rest 
and quietness, neither have the students therein need to be 
employed in any affairs. Contrariwise, policy and managing 
of the state and weal public, the favours of princes and poten- 
tates, are not compassed without much ado ; neither can a man 
be idle at any time, who either is employed in the service of his 
country, or attendant in the court. Much feeding upon flesh 

Tranquillity and Contentment 173 

and liberal drinking of wine, maketh (I must needs say) the body 
able and strong, but the mind feeble and weak. Likewise, the 
continual and excessive care both in getting and keeping goods, 
may well augment riches and increase our substance : but surely 
it is the contempt and despisement of worldly wealth that is a 
great help and means to learning and philosophy. And there- 
fore we may well conclude that every man is not fit for every- 
thing: but herein each one must be ruled by the sage sentence 
of Pythius Apollo, and first learn, To know himself; then mark 
and observe to what one thing he is most framed and inclined ; 
and thereto both apply and employ his wits, and not to offer 
violence to nature, and draw her perforce, as it were, against 
the hair, to this or that course of life which she liketh not. 

The horse serves best in chariot at the thill, 
The ox at plough, the ground to ear and till; 
Ships under sail the dolphins when they spy, 
Most swiftly then do swim their sides fast by: 
Who would in wood the wild boar chase and slay, 
Must bring with him the hardy hound away. 

Now if there be one that shall be angry with himself and dis- 
pleased that he is not at once both a savage lion of the forest, 
bold and venturous of his own strength, and withal a dainty 
fine puppy of Malta, cherished and fostered in the lap and bosom 
of some delicate dame and rich widow; commend me to him 
for a senseless fool of all fools, and to say a sooth, I hold him 
also as very an ass and doltish fop, who will needs be such an 
one as Empedocles, Plato and Democritus; namely, to write of 
the world, of the nature and true essence of all things therein, 
and withal to keep a rich old trot and sleep with her every night, 
as Euphorion did; or else like unto those who kept company 
with Alexander the Great in drinking and gaming (as one 
Medius did), and yet think it a great abuse and indignity (for- 
sooth) if he may not be as much admired for his wealth as 
Ismenias, and esteemed no less for his virtue than Epaminondas. 
We see that the runners in a race be not discontented at all if 
they wear not the garlands and coronets of wrestlers, but rest 
pleased with their own rewards, and therein delight and rejoice. 
It is an old said saw, and a common proverb: Sparta is thy lot 
and province, look well to it, and adorn the same. For it is a 
saying also of wise Solon: 

And yet we will not change our boon 
With them, for all their wealth and gold: 
Goods pass from man to man full soon. 
Ours virtue is, a sure freehold. 

174 Plutarch's Morals 

Strato, the natural philosopher, when he heard that Menede- 
mus, his concurrent, had many more scholars by far than he: 
What marvel is that (quoth he) if there be more that desire to 
be washed and bathed than are willing to be anointed and 
rubbed? Aristotle, writing to Antipater: It is not meet (quoth 
he) that Alexander alone should think highly of himself, in that 
he is able to command so many men; but they also have good 
cause to be as well conceited of themselves, who have the grace 
to believe of the gods as they ought. For surely they that 
thus can make the best use of their own estate, shall never be 
vexed, nor at their neighbour's welfare pine away for very envy. 
Which of us now doth require or think it fit that the vine-tree 
should bear figs, or the olive grapes? and yet we ourselves, if 
we may not have all at once, to wit, the superiority and pre- 
eminence among rich men, among eloquent orators and learned 
clerks, both at home and abroad, in the schools among philo- 
sophers, in the field among warriors ; as well among flattering 
claw-backs as plain-spoken and tell-truth friends: to conclude 
unless we may go before all-pinching penny-fathers in frugality; 
yea, and surpass all spendthrifts in riot and prodigality; we 
are out of our little wits; we accuse ourselves daily like syco- 
phants; we are unthankful; we repine and grumble as if we 
lived in penury and want. Over and besides, do we not see 
that nature herself doth teach us sufficiently in this point? 
For like as she hath provided for sundry kinds of brute and wild 
beasts, divers sorts of food : for all feed not upon flesh, all peck 
not upon seeds and grains of plants, neither do all live upon 
roots which they work from under the ground ; even so she hath 
bestowed upon mankind many means to get their living, while 
some live by grazing and feeding of cattle, others by tillage, 
some be fowlers, others fishers: and therefore ought every man 
to chuse that course of life which sorteth best with his own 
nature, and wholly to apply and set his mind thereto; leaving 
unto others that which pertaineth to them, and not to reprove 
and convince Hesiodus when he thus speaketh, although not to 
the full and sufficiently to the point: 

The potter to potter doth bear envy, 

One carpenter to another hath a spightful eye. 

For jealous we are not only of those who exercise the same art 
and follow that course of life which we do, but the rich also do 
envy the learned and eloquent; noble men the rich; advocates 
and lawyers, captious and litigious sophisters; yea, and (that 

Tranquillity and Contentment 175 

which more is) gentlemen free-born, and descended from noble 
and ancient houses, envy comedians when they have acted well 
and with a good grace upon the stage in great theatres ; dancers 
also and jesters in the court, whom they see to be in favour and 
credit with kings and princes; and whiles they do admire these, 
and think them happy for their good speed and success in com- 
parison of their own doings, they fret and grieve, and out of 
measure torment themselves. 

Now, that every one of us hath within himself treasures laid 
up of contentment and discontentment, and certain tunes of 
good things and evil; not bestowed, as Homer said, upon the 
door-sill and entry of Jupiter's house; but placed in eaci* of our 
own minds, the divers passions whereunto we are subject do 
sufficiently prove and shew. For such as are foolish and un- 
advised, do neglect and let go the very good things that presently 
they have, and never care to enjoy them, so intentive and 
earnestly bent are their minds and spirits always to that which 
is coming, and future expectation: whereas wise men, on the 
contrary side, call to their fresh remembrance those things that 
are past, so as they seem to enjoy the same as if they were 
present, yea and to make that which is no more to be as beneficial 
unto them as if they were ready and at hand. For surely that 
which is present, yielding itself to be touched by us but the least 
moment of time that is, and immediately passing our senses, 
seemeth unto fools to be none of ours, nor any more to concern 
us. But like as the roper which is painted in the temple of 
Pluto, or description of hell, suffereth an ass behind him to gnaw 
and eat a rope as fast as he twisteth it off the spart-broom; 
even so the unthankful and senseless oblivion of many ready to 
catch and devour all good things as they pass by, yea, and to 
dissipate and cause to vanish away every honest and notable 
action, all virtuous deeds, duties, delectable recreations and 
pleasant pastimes, all good fellowship and mutual society, and 
all amiable conversation one with another, will not permit that 
the life be one and the same, linked (as it were) and chained by 
the copulation of things past and present; but dividing yester- 
day from to-day, and this day from the morrow, as if they were 
sundry parts of our life, bringeth in such a forgetfulness, as if 
things once past had never been. 

As for those verily who in their disputations and philosophical 
discourses admit no augmentation of bodies, affirming that 
every substance continually fadeth and vanisheth, would make 
us believe in word, that each one of us every hour altereth from 


Plutarch's Morals 

himself, and no man is the same to-day that he was yesterday: 
but these for fault of memory not able to retain and keep those 
things that are done and past, no, nor to apprehend and eftsoons 
call them again to mind, but suffer everything to pass away and 
run as it were through a sieve, do not in word but in deed and 
effect make themselves void and empty every day more than 
other, depending only upon the morrow, as if those things which 
were done the year past, of late, and yesterday, nothing apper- 
tained unto them, nor ever were at all. 

This is, therefore, one thing that hindereth and troubleth that 
equanimity and repose of spirit which we seek for: and yet 
there is another that doth it more; and that is this; Like as 
flies creeping upon the smooth places of glasses or mirrors, 
cannot hold their feet but must needs fall down, but contrari- 
wise they take hold where they meet with any roughness, and 
stick fast to rugged flaws that they can find ; even so these men, 
gliding and glancing over all delectable and pleasant occurrences, 
take hold of any adverse and heavy calamities, those they 
cleave unto and remember very well; or rather as (by report) 
there is about the city Olynthus a certain place, into which if 
any flies called beetles enter in once, they cannot get forth 
again, but after they have kept a-turning about, and fetching 
compasses round to no purpose a long time, they die in the end, 
whereupon it took the name of Cantharolethron ; semblably, 
men after they fall to the reckoning up and commemoration of 
their harms and calamities past, are not willing to retire back, 
nor to breathe themselves and give over multiplying thereupon 
still. And yet contrariwise, they ought to do after the manner 
of painters, who when they paint a table do lay upon the ground, 
or by a course of dead and duskish colours, such as be fresh, 
gay and gallant, for to palliate and in some sort to hide the 
unpleasantness of the other, they ought (I say) to smother and 
keep down the heaviness of the heart occasioned by some cross 
mishaps, with those that have fallen out of their mind, for to 
obliterate and wipe them out of their mind quite, and to be 
freed clean from them it is not possible : and surely the harmony 
of this world is reciprocal and variable, compounded (as it were) 
of contraries, like as we do see in an harp or bow; neither is 
any earthly thing under the cope of heaven pure, simple and 
sincere without mixture. But as music doth consist of base and 
treble sounds; and grammar of letters, which be partly vocal 
and partly mute, to wit, vowels and consonants, and he is not 
to be counted a grammarian and musician who is offended and 

Tranquillity and Contentment 177 

displeased with either of those contrary elements of the art, 
but he that aftecteth the one as well as the other, and knoweth 
how to use and mix both together with skill for to serve his 
purpose; even so, considering that in the occurrences of man's 
life there be so many contrarieties, and one weigheth against 
anotherin manner of counterpoise j for (according to Euripides) : 

It cannot stand with our affairs, 

That good from bad should parted be: 

A medley then of mixed pairs 

Doth well, and serves in each degree. 

It is not meet that we should let our hearts fall and be dis- 
couraged with the one sort whensoever it happeneth, but we 
ought, according to the rules of harmony in music, to stop the 
point always of the worst with strokes of better, and by over- 
casting misfortunes (as it were) with a veil and curtain of good 
haps, or by setting one to the other, to make a good composition 
and a pleasant accord in our life, fitting and sorting our own 
turns. For it is not as Menander said: 

Each man so soon as he is born, 

One spirit good or angel hath, 
Which him assists both even and morn, 

And guides his steps in every path ; 

but rather according to Empedocles: No sooner are we come 
into the world, but each one of us hath two angels, called 
dcemons : two destinies (I say) are allotted unto us, for to take 
the charge and government of our life, unto which he attributeth 
divers and sundry names: 

Here Clithonie was, a downward look that hath, 
Heliope eke, who turneth to the sun, 
And Deris, she that loves in blood to bath, 
Harmony smiles ever and anon, 
Calisto fair and ^ischre foul among, 
Thoosa swift, Dinasa stout and strong, 
Nemertes, who is lovely white and pure, 
But Asaphie with fruit black and obscure. 

Insomuch as our nativity receiving the seeds of each of all 
these passions blended and confused together, and by reason 
thereof the course of our life not being uniform, but full of dis- 
ordered and unequal dispositions, a man of good and sound 
judgment ought to wish and desire at God's hand the better, 
to expect and look for the worse, and to make an use of them 
both, namely, by abridging and cutting off that which is exces- 
sive and too much: For not he only (as Epicurus was wont to 
say) shall come with most delight and pleasure to see the 

178 Plutarch's Morals 

morrow-sun, who made least account thereof on the even; but 
riches also, glory, authority and rule doth most rejoice their 
hearts who least feared the contrary: for the vehement ana 
ardent desire that a man hath to any of these things, doth 
imprint likewise an exceeding fear of foregoing and losing the 
same, and thereby maketh the delight of enjoying them to be 
feeble and nothing firm and constant; even as the blaze and 
flame of the fire which is blown and driven to and fro with the 
wind. But the man who is so much assisted with reason, that 
he is able without fear and trembling to say unto fortune : 

7}5v /jloI &v Ti (p^prjs, 6\iyov 5' &x os ?l v a.iro\ei7rr)s. 
Welcome to me, if good thou bringest ought, 
And if thou fail, I will take little thought ; 

or thus: 

Well mayst thou take from me some joy of mind, 
But little grief thou shalt me leave behind: 

hath this benefit by his confidence and resolution: that as he 
taketh most joy of his good fortunes when they are present, so 
he never feareth the loss of them, as if it were a calamity insup- 
portable. And herein we may as well imitate as admire the 
disposition and affection of Anaxagoras, who when he heard the 
news of his son's death, I know full well (quoth he) when I begot 
him that die he must: and after his example, whensoever any 
infortunity happeneth, to be ready with these and such-like 
speeches : I know that riches were not permanent, but transitory 
and for a day: I never thought other, but that they who con- 
ferred these dignities upon me both might and could deprive 
me of them : I wist that I had a good wife and virtuous dame, 
but withal a woman and no more : I was not ignorant that my 
friend was a man, (that is to say) a living creature by nature 
mutable, as Plato used to say. 

And verily, such preparations and dispositions of our affections 
as these, if peradventure there shall befall unto us anything 
against our intent and mind, but not contrary to our expecta- 
tion, as they will never admit such passionate words as these 
(I never thought it would have fallen out so, I was in great hope 
of other matters, and little looked I for this), so they shall be 
able to rid us of all sudden pantings and leapings of the heart, 
of unquiet and disorderly beating of the pulses, and soon stay 
and settle the furious and troublesome motions of impatience. 
Carneades was wont in time of greatest prosperity to put men 
in mind of a change; for that the thing which happeneth con- 

Tranquillity and Contentment 179 

trary to our hope and expectation is that which altogether and 
wholly doth breed sorrow and grief. 

The kingdom of the Macedonians was not an handful to the 
Roman empire and dominion; and yet King Perseus, when he 
had lost Macedonia, did not only himself lament his own 
fortune most piteously, but in the eyes also of the whole world 
he was reputed a most unfortunate and miserable man. But 
behold Paulus iEmelius, whose hap it was to vanquish the said 
Perseus, when he departed out of that province, and made over 
into the hands of another his whole army, with so great com- 
mand both of land and sea, was crowned with a chaplet of 
flowers, and so did sacrifice unto the gods with joy and thanks- 
giving in the judgment of all men, worthily extolled and reputed 
as happy. For why? when he received first that high com- 
mission and mighty power withal, he knew full well that he was 
to give it over and resign it up when his time was expired; 
whereas Perseus, on the contrary side, lost that which he never 
made account to lose. Certes, even the poet Homer hath given 
us very' well to understand how forcible that is which happeneth 
besides hope and unlooked for, when he bringeth in Ulysses upon 
his return, weeping for the death of his dog; but when he sate 
by his own wife, who shed tears plentifully, wept not at all; 
for that he had long before at his leisure against this coming 
home of his, prevented and brought into subjection (as it were), 
by the rule of reason, that passion which otherwise he knew 
well enough would have broken out; whereas, looking for 
nothing less than the death of his dog, he fell suddenly into it, 
as having had no time before to repress the same. In sum, of 
all those accidents which light upon us contrary to our will, 
some grieve and vex us by the course and instinct of nature; 
others (and those be the greater part) we are wont to be 
offended and discontented with, upon a corrupt opinion and 
foolish custom that we have taken : and therefore we should do 
very well, against such temptations as these, to be ready with 
that sentence of Menander: 

No harm nor loss thou dost sustain; 
But that thou list so for to fain. 

And how (quoth he) can it concern thee? 

For if no flesh without it wound, 
Nor soul within, then all is sound. 

As for example, the base parentage and birth of thy father ; the 
adultery of thy wife; the loss or repulse of any honour, dignity 

180 Plutarch's Morals 

or pre-eminence : for what should let, notwithstanding all these 
crosses, but that thy body and mind both may be in right good 
plight and excellent estate ? And against those accidents which 
seem naturally to grieve and trouble us, to wit, maladies, pains 
and travails ; death of dear friends and toward children, we may 
oppose another saying of Euripides the poet: 

Alas, alas, and well-a-day: 
But why alas, and well away? 
Nought else to us hath yet been dealt, 
But that which daily men have felt. 

For no remonstrance nor reason is so effectual to restrain and 
stay this passionate and sensual part of our mind, when it is 
ready to slip and be carried headlong away with our affections, 
as that which calleth to remembrance the common and natural 
necessity; by means whereof a man in regard of his body, being 
mixed and compounded, doth expose and offer this handle (as 
it were) and vantage whereby fortune is to take hold when she 
wrestleth against him; for otherwise, in the greatest and most 
principal things, he abideth fast and sure. King Demetrius 
having forced and won the city Megara, demanded of Stilpo, the 
wise philosopher, whether he had lost any goods in the sackage 
and pillage thereof? Sir (quoth he), I saw not so much as one 
man carrying anything of mine away; semblably, when fortune 
hath made what spoil she can, and taken from us all other things, 
yet somewhat there remaineth still within ourselves, 

Which Greeks, do what they can or may, 
Shall neither drive nor bear away. 

In which regard we ought altogether so to depress, debase 
and throw down our human nature, as if it had nothing firm, 
stable and permanent, nothing above the reach and power of 
fortune: but contrariwise, knowing that it is the least and 
worst part of man, and the same frail, brittle, and subject to 
death, which maketh us to lie open unto fortune and her 
assaults; whereas in respect of the better part we are masters 
over her, and have her at command, when there being seated 
and founded most surely the best and greatest things that we 
have, to wit, sound and honest opinions, arts and sciences, good 
discourses tending to virtue, which be all of a substance incor- 
ruptible, and whereof we cannot be robbed : we (I say) knowing 
thus much, ought in the confidence of ourselves to carry a mind 
invincible and secure against whatsoever shall happen, and be 
able to say that to the face of fortune which Socrates, address- 
ing his speech indeed covertly to the judges, seemed to speak 

Tranquillity and Contentment 1 8 I 

against his two accusers, Anytus and Melitus: Well may 
Anytus and Melitus bring me to my death, but hurt or harm me 
they shall never be able. 

And even so fortune hath power to bring a disease or sickness 
upon a man, his goods she can take away, raise she may a 
slander of him to tyrant, prince or people, and bring him out 
of grace and favour; but him that is virtuous, honest, valiant 
and magnanimous, she cannot make wicked, dishonest, base- 
minded, malicious and envious: and in one word, she hath not 
power to take from him a good habitude, settled upon wisdom 
and discretion, which wheresoever it is always present, doth 
more good unto a man for to guide him how to live, than the 
pilot at sea for to direct a ship in her course; for surely the 
pilot, be he never so skilful, knoweth not how to still the rough 
and surging billows when he would, he cannot allay the violence 
of a tempest, or blustering wind, neither put into a safe harbour 
and haven, or gain a commodious bay to anchor in at all times 
and in every coast, would he never so fain, nor resolutely without 
fear and trembling when he is in a tempest, abide the danger 
and undergo all; thus far forth only his art serveth, so long as 
he is in no despair but that his skill may take place: 

To strike mainsail, and down the lee 
To let ship hull, until he see 
The foot of mast no more above 
The sea: while he doth not remove, 
But with one hand in other fast 
Quaketh and panteth all aghast. 

But the disposition and staid mind of a prudent man, over 
and besides that it bringeth the body into a quiet and calm 
estate, by dissipating and dispatching for the most part the 
occasions and preparatives of diseases, and that by continent 
life, sober diet, moderate exercises, and travails in measure ; if 
haply there chance some little beginning or indisposition to a 
passion, upon which the mind is ready to run itself, as a ship, 
upon some blind rock under the water, it can quickly turn about 
his nimble and light cross-sail yard, as Asclepiades was wont to 
say, and so avoid the danger. 

But say there come upon us some great and extraordinary 
accident, such as neither we looked for, nor be able by all the 
power we have, either to overcome or endure; the haven is near 
at hand, we may swim safely thither out of the body (as it 
were), out of a vessel that leaketh and taketh water, and will 
no longer hold a passenger: as for foolish folk, it is the fear of 

1 82 Plutarch's Morals 

death, and not the love of life, that causeth them to cling and 
stick so close to the body, hanging and clasping thereunto no 
otherwise than Ulysses to the wild fig-tree, when he feared with 
great horror the gulf Charybdis roaring under him: 

Whereas the winds would not permit to stay, 
Nor suffer him to row or sail away: 

displeased infinitely in the one, and dreading fearfully the other. 
But he that in some measure (be it never so little) knoweth the 
nature of the soul, and casteth this with himself: That by death 
there is a passage out of this life, either to a better state, or at 
leastwise not to a worse: certes, he is furnished with no mean 
wayfaring provision to bring him to the security of mind in 
this life, I mean the fearless contempt of death: for he that may 
(so long as virtue and the better part of the soul (which indeed 
is proper unto man) is predominant) live pleasantly; and when 
the contrary passions, which are enemies to nature, do prevail, 
depart resolutely and without fear, saying thus unto himself: 

God will me suffer to be gone 
When that I will myself, anon. 

What can we imagine to happen unto a man of this resolution, 
that should encumber, trouble or terrify him ? for whosoever he 
was that said: I have prevented thee (0 Fortune), I have 
stopped up all thy avenues, I have intercepted and choked all 
the ways of access and entry; surely he fortified himself, not 
with bars and barricades, not with locks and keys, nor yet with 
mures and walls, but with philosophical and sage lessons, with 
sententious saws, and with discourses of reason, whereof all men 
that are willing be capable. Neither ought a man to discredit 
the truth of these and such-like things which are committed in 
writing, and give no belief unto them, but rather to admire, and 
with an affectionate ravishment of spirit embrace and imitate 
them; yea, and withal to make a trial and experiment of him- 
self; first in smaller matters, proceeding afterwards to greater, 
until he reach unto the highest, and in no wise to shake off such 
meditations, nor to shift off and seek to avoid the exercise of 
the mind in this kind, and in so doing, he shall haply find no 
such difficulty as he thinketh. For as the effeminate delicacy 
and niceness of our mind, amused always and loving to be 
occupied in the most easy objects, and retiring eftsoons from 
the cogitation of those things that fall out cross, unto such as 
tend unto greatest pleasure, causeth it to be soft and tender, 
and imprinteth a certain daintiness not able to abide any 

Tranquillity and Contentment 183 

exercise ; so if the same mind would by custom learn and exercise 
itself in apprehending the imagination of a malady, of pain, 
travel, and of banishment, and enforce itself by reason to 
withstand and strive against each of these accidents, it will be 
found and seen by experience, that such things which through 
an erroneous opinion were thought painful, grievous, hard and 
terrible, are for the most part but vain indeed, deceitful and 
contemptible : like as reason will shew the same if a man would 
consider them each one in particular. Howbeit, the most part 
mightily fear and have in horror that verse of Menander: 

No man alive can safely say, 
This case shall never me assay, 

as not knowing how material it is to the exempting and freeing 
of a man from all grief and sorrow, to meditate beforehand, 
and to be able to look open-eyed full against fortune, and not 
to make those apprehensions and imaginations in himself soft and 
effeminate, as if he were fostered and nourished in the shadow, 
under many foolish hopes which ever yield to the contrary, and 
be not able to resist so much as any one. 

But to come again unto Menander, we have to answer unto 
him in this manner: True it is indeed, there is no man living 
able to say: This or this shall never happen unto me; howbeit, 
thus much may a man that is alive say and affirm : So long as I 
live I will not do this, to wit, I will not lie; I will never be a 
cozener, nor circumvent any man; I will not defraud any one 
of his own; neither will I forelay and surprise any man by a 
wile. This lieth in our power to promise and perform, and this 
is no small matter, but a great means to procure tranquillity and 
contentment of mind. Whereas contrariwise, the remorse of 
conscience whenas a man is privy to himself, and must needs 
confess and say: These and these wicked parts I have committed, 
festereth in the soul like an ulcer and sore in the flesh, and 
leaveth behind it repentance in the soul, which fretteth, galleth, 
gnaweth, and setteth it a-bleeding fresh continually. For, 
whereas all other sorrows, griefs, and anguishes, reason doth 
take away; repentance only it doth breed and engender, which 
together with shame biteth and punisheth itself; for like as 
they who quiver and shake in the fevers called epioli ; or con- 
trariwise, burn by occasion of other agues, are more afflicted 
and more at ease than those who suffer the same accidents by 
exterior causes, to wit, winter's cold or summer's heat; even so 
all mischances and casual calamities bring with them lighter 


Plutarch's Morals 

dolours and pains as coming from without. But when a man 
is forced thus to confess: 

Myself I may well thank for this, 
None else for it blame worthy is: 

which is an ordinary speech of them who lamentably bewail 
their sins from the bottom of their hearts, it causeth grief and 
sorrow to be so much more heavy, and it is joined with shame 
and infamy: whereupon it cometh to pass that neither house 
richly and finely furnished, nor heaps of gold and silver, no 
parentage or nobility of birth, no dignity of estate and authority, 
how high soever, no grace in speech, no force and power of 
eloquence, can yield unto a man's life such a calm (as it were) 
and peaceable tranquillity, as a soul and conscience clear from 
wicked deeds, sinful cogitations and lewd designs, which having 
the source and fountain of life (I mean the inward disposition 
of the heart) not troubled and polluted, but clear and cleansed ; 
from whence all good and laudable actions do flow and proceed, 
and the same do give a lively, cheerful, and effectual operation, 
even by some divine instinct and heavenly inspiration, together 
with a bold courage and haughty mind, and withal yield the 
remembrance of a virtuous and well led life, more sweet, 
pleasant, firm and permanent than is that hope whereof 
Pindarus writeth, the nurse and fostress of old age : for we must 
not think that (as Carneades was wont to say) the censers * or 
perfuming pans wherein sweet incense is burned, retain and 
render the pleasant odour a long time after they be empty, and 
that the virtuous deeds of a wise and honest man should not 
always leave behind them in the soul an amiable, delightful and 
fresh remembrance thereof; by means whereof, that inward 
joy being watered, is ever green, buddeth and flourisheth still, 
despising the shameful error of those who with their plaints, 
moans and wailings defame this life of ours, saying: It is a 
very hell and place of torments or else a region of confined and 
exiled souls, into which they were sent away and banished 
forth of heaven. 

And here I cannot choose but highly commend that memorable 
saying of Diogenes, who seeing once a certain stranger at 
Lacedaemon dressing and trimming himself very curiously 
against a festival and high day: What means all this (quoth he), 
my good friend ? to a good and honest man is not every day in 

1 Or rosemary banks after they be cut down and left void, as some 

Tranquillity and Contentment 185 

ar a feast and holy day? yes verily, and if we be wise we 
should think all days double feasts and most solemn gaudy-days: 
for surely this world is a right sacred and holy temple, yea, and 
most divine, beseeming the majesty of God, into which man is 
inducted and admitted at his nativity, not to gaze and look at 
statues and images cut and made by man's hand, and such as 
have no motion of their own, but to behold those works and 
creatures which that divine spirit and almighty power in won- 
derful wisdom and providence hath made and shewed unto us 
sensible; and yet (as Plato saith) representing and resembling 
intelligible powers, from whence proceed the beginnings of life 
and moving, namely, the sun, the moon, the stars ; what should 
I speak of the rivers which continually send out fresh water 
still; and the earth which bringeth forth nourishment for all 
living creatures, and yieldeth nutriment likewise to every plant? 

Now if our life be the imitation of so sacred mysteries, and 
(as it were) a profession and entrance into so holy a religion 
of all others most perfect, we must needs esteem it to be full 
of contentment and continual joy: neither ought we (as the 
common multitude doth) attend and wait for the feasts of 
Saturn, Bacchus, or Minerva, and such other high days wherein 
they may solace themselves, make merry and laugh, buying 
their mirth and joy for money, giving unto players, jesters, 
dancers, and such-like their hire and reward for to make them 
laugh. In which feasts and solemnities we use to sit with great 
contentment of mind, arrayed decently according to our degree 
and calling (for no man useth to mourn and lament when he is 
professed in the mysteries of Ceres, and received into that 
confraternity; no man sorroweth when he doth behold the 
goodly sights of the Pythian games; no man hungereth or 
fasteth during the Saturnals): what an indignity and shame is 
it then that in those feasts which God himself hath instituted, 
and wherein (as a man would say) he leadeth the dance, or is 
personally himself to give institution and induction, men should 
contaminate, pollute and profane as they do, dishonouring their 
life for the most part, with weeping, wailing, sighing and groan- 
ing, or at the leastwise in deep thoughts and pensive cares. 

But the greatest shame of all other is this; that we take 
pleasure to hear the organs and instruments of music sound 
pleasantly; we delight to hear birds singing sweetly; we behold 
with right goodwill beasts playing, sporting, dancing and skip- 
ping featly; and contrariwise, we are offended when they howl, 
roar, snarl, and gnash their teeth, as also when they shew a 

1 86 Plutarch's Morals 

fierce, stern and hideous look ; and all this while seeing our own 
lives heavy, sad, travailed and oppressed with most unpleasant 
passions, most intricate and inexplicable affairs, and over- 
whelmed with infinite and endless cares; yet we will not afford 
ourselves some rest and breathing time; nay (that which more 
is), we will not admit the speech and remonstrances of our friends 
and familiars, whom if we would give ear unto, we might without 
fault-finding receive the present, remember with joy and thanks- 
giving that which is past, and without distrust, suspicion and 
fear, expect with joyful and lightsome hope that which is to 



[Although it be needless to stand curiously upon the concatenation 
and coherence of these matters handled by Plutarch, how they be knit 
and linked together, considering that he penned these discourses 
of his at sundry times ; and both they who have reduced them into 
one volume, and those also who have translated them out of Greek 
into other languages, have not all followed one order: yet I think 
verily that this present treatise, as concerning Naughty Bashfulness, 
is fitly joined next to the former, as touching the repose and tran- 
quillity of the spirit. For one of the greatest shaking cracks that 
our soul can receive in her tranquillity is when she secretly and by 
stealth may be lifted from her seat for to drive a man to those things 
which may trouble him immediately, and much more afterwards. 
Now this evil bashfulness hath this vicious and dangerous quality, 
to know how to seduce and draw us by fair semblant, and never- 
theless to trouble and confound after a strange fashion the content- 
ment of our spirits, as appeareth plainly in this little book, which 
deserveth to be well perused and considered by all sorts of people. 
Now after he hath shewed what this evil shamefastness is, he 
declareth that it is no less pernicious and hurtful than impudency; 
adding, moreover, that we ought to take good heed, lest in avoiding 
it we fall into contrary extremities, as they do who are envious, 
shameless, obstinate, idle and dissolute. Then he proceedeth to 
teach us that the first and principal preservative against this poison 
is, to hold it for to be most dangerous and deadly, which he doth 
verify and prove by notable examples. Which done, he describeth 
particularly and from point to point, the incommodities, perils, and 
misfortunes that come by naughty bashfulness, applying thereto 
good and proper remedies, giving withal many sage and wise counsels 
drawn out of philosophy, tending to this scope and mark; that 
neither the regard of our friends, kinsfolk, and familiars, nor yet the 
respect of anything else besides, ought to draw from our thought, 
our mouth, or hands, anything contrary to the duty of an honest 
man: which both for the present and also all the rest of our life 
may leave in our soul the cicatrice or scar of repentance, sorrow, 
and heaviness. In conclusion, to the end that we should not commit 
those deeds in haste which afterwards we may repent at leisure; 
he sheweth that we ought to have before our eyes the hurts and 
inconveniences caused before by evil bashfulness, that the considera- 
tion thereof might keep us from falling into fresh and new faults.] 


I 88 Plutarch's Morals 

Among those plants which the earth bringeth forth, some there 
are which not only by their own nature be wild and savage, 
and withal bearing no fruit at all; but (that which worse is) in 
their growth do hurt unto good seeds and fruitful plants: and 
yet skilful gardeners and husbandmen judge them to be argu- 
ments and signs, not of bad ground, but rather of a kind and 
fat soil ; semblably the passions and affections of the mind simply 
and in themselves are not good, howbeit they spring as buds 
and flowers from a towardly nature, and such as gently can yield 
itself to be wrought, framed, and brought into order by reason. 

In this kind I may range that which the Greeks call rj Avo-uTria, 
which is as much to say, as a foolish and rustical shamefastness ; 
no evil sign in itself, howbeit the cause and occasion of evil and 
naughtiness. For they that be given to bash and shame over- 
much and when they should not, commit many times the same 
faults that they do who are shameless and impudent: here only 
is the difference, that they, when they trespass and do amiss, 
are displeased with themselves, and grieve for the matter; 
whereas these take delight and pleasure therein: for he that is 
graceless and past shame hath no sense or feeling of grief when 
he hath committed any foul or dishonest act; contrariwise, 
whosoever be apt to bash and be ashamed quickly are soon 
moved and troubled anon, even at those things which seem 
only dishonest, although they be not indeed. 

Now, lest the equivocation of the word might breed any 
doubt, I mean by dysopia, immoderate bashfulness, whereby 
one blusheth for shame exceedingly and for everything, where- 
upon such an one is called in Greek dysopetus, for that his visage 
and countenance together with his mind changeth, falleth and 
is cast down: for like as Kar-qcfyeta in Greek is defined to be a 
sad heaviness, which causeth a down-look; even so, that shame 
and dismayedness which maketh us that we dare not look a 
man in the face as we should and when we ought, they call 
rj Avo-umia. And hereupon it was that the great orator Demos- 
thenes said of an impudent fellow that he had in his eyes not 
Kopas but Tropvas, i.e., harlots, playing prettily upon the ambi- 
guity of the word Koprj, which signifieth both the round apple 
in the eyes, and also a maiden or virgin : but contrariwise the 
over-bashful person (whom we speak of) sheweth in his coun- 
tenance a mind too soft, delicate and effeminate, and yet he 
flattereth himself therein, and calleth that fault (wherein the 
impudent person surpasseth him) shamefastness. Now Cato 
was wont to say that he loved to see young folk rather to blush 

Unseemly and Naughty Bashfulness 189 

than to look pale ; as having good reason to acquaint and teach 
youth to dread shame and reproach more than blame and 
reproof; yea, and suspicion or obloquy rather than peril or 

Howbeit, we must abridge and cut off the excess and over- 
much, which is in such timidity and fear of reproach; for that 
oftentimes it cometh to pass in some, who dreading no less to 
hear ill and be accused than to be chastised or punished; for 
false hearts are frighted from doing their duty, and in no wise 
can abide to have an hard word spoken of them. But as we 
are not to neglect these that are so tender, nor ought to feed 
them in their feebleness of heart; so again, we must not praise 
their disposition who are stiff and inflexible: such as the poet 
describeth when he saith: 

Who fearless is, and basheth not 

All men fast to behold; 
In whom appears the dogged force 

Of Anaxarchus bold: 

but we ought to compound a good mixture and temperate medley 
of both extremities, which may take away this excessive obstinacy 
which is impudence, and that immoderate modesty which is 
mere childishness and imbecility. True it is that the cure of 
these two maladies is difficult; neither can this excess both in 
the one and the other be cut off without danger. For like as 
the skilful husbandman when he would rid the ground of some 
wild bushes and fruitless plants, he layeth at them mainly with 
his grubbing hook or mattock, until he have fetched them up 
by the root; or else sets fire unto them and so burneth them; 
but when he comes to prune or cut a vine, an apple-tree, or an 
olive, he carrieth his hand lightly for fear of wounding any of 
the sound wood, in fetching off the superfluous and rank 
branches, and so kill the heart thereof; even so the philosopher, 
intending to pluck out of the mind of a young man either envy, 
an unkind and savage plant, which hardly or unneth at all may- 
be made gentle and brought to any good use ; or the unseasonable 
and excessive greediness of gathering good, or dissolute and 
disordinate lust; he never feareth at all in the cutting thereof, 
to draw blood, to press and pierce hard to the bottom, yea, and 
to make a large wound and deep scar. But when he setteth to 
the keen edge of remonstrance and speech, to the tender and 
delicate part of the soul, for to cut away that which is excessive 
or overmuch, to wit, wherein is seated this unmeasurable and 
sheepish bashfulness, he hath a great care and regard, lest ere he 

190 Plutarch's Morals 

be aware he cut away therewith that ingenuous and honest 
shamefastness that is so good and commendable. For we see 
that even nurses themselves, when they think to wipe away the 
filth of their little infants, and to make them clean; if they rub 
anything hard, otherwhiles fetch off the skin withal, make the 
flesh raw and put them to pain. 

And therefore we must take heed, that in seeking by all 
means to do out this excessive bashfulness utterly in young 
people we make them not brazen-faced, such as care not what is 
said unto them, and blush thereat no more than a blackdog, and 
in one word, standing stiff in anything that they do ; but rather 
we ought to do as they who demolish and pull down the dwelling- 
houses that be near unto the temples of the gods; who for fear 
of touching anything that is holy or sacred, suffer those ends of 
the edifices and buildings to stand still which are next and joined 
close thereto ; yea, and those they underprop and stay up, that 
they should not fall down of themselves; even so (I say) beware 
and fear we must, whiles we be tempering about this immoderate 
shamefacedness for to remove it, that we do not draw away 
with it grace and modesty, gentleness and debonairity, which be 
adjacents and lie close unto it; under which qualities lieth 
lurking and sticketh close to, the foresaid naughty bashfulness, 
flattering him that is possessed therewith, as if he were full of 
humanity, courtesy, civility and common sense; not opiniona- 
tive, severe, inflexible and untractable : which is the reason that 
the Stoic philosophers, when they dispute of this matter, have 
distinguished by several names this aptness to blush or over- 
much bashfulness from modesty and shamefacedness indeed: 
for fear lest the equivocation and ambiguity of one common 
word might give some occasion and vantage to the vicious 
passion itself to do some hurt. As for us, they must give us 
leave to use the terms without calumniation, or rather permit us 
to distinguish according to Homer, when he saith: 

Shame is a thing that doth mickle harm, and profiteth as much ; 

neither without good cause is it, that in the former place he 
putteth down the harm and discommodity thereof: for surely 
it is not profitable but by the means of reason, which cutteth off 
that which is superfluous, and leaveth a mean behind. 

To come then unto the remedies thereof; it behoveth him 
first and foremost, who is given to blushing at every small 
matter, to believe and be persuaded that he is possessed with 
such an hurtful passion (now there is nothing hurtful which 

Unseemly and Naughty Bashfulness 191 

is good and honest): neither ought he to take pleasure and 
delight when he shall be tickled in the ear with praises and 
commendations, when he shall hear himself called gentle, jolly 
and courteous, instead of grave, magnanimous and just; neither 
let him do as Pegasus the horse in Euripides, who 

When mount his back Bellerophontes should, 

With trembling stoop'd more than his own self would ; 

that is to say, give place and yield after a base manner to the 
demands and requests of every man; or object himself to their 
will and pleasure, for fear (forsooth) lest one should say of him, 
Lo, what a hard man is this ! See how inexorable he is. 

It is reported of Bocchorus, a king of Egypt, that being rough, 
fell and austere, the goddess Isis sent the serpent called Aspis 
for to wind and wreath about his head, and so to cast a shadow 
over him from above, to the end that he might be put in mind 
to judge aright : but this excessive shamefastness which always 
overspreadeth and covereth them who are not manly but 
faint-hearted and effeminate, not suffering them once to dare, 
to deny, or gainsay anything, surely, would avert and withdraw 
judges from doing justice, close up their mouths, that in counsels 
and consultations should deliver their opinion frankly; yea, 
and cause them both to say and do many things inconsiderately 
against their mind, which otherwhiles they would not. For 
look, whosoever is most unreasonable and importunate, he will 
ever tyrannise and domineer over such an one, forcing by his 
impudency the bashfulness of the other: by which means it 
cometh to pass that this excessive shame, like unto a low piece 
of soft ground which is ready to receive all the water that comes, 
and apt to be overflowed and drowned, having no power to 
withstand and repulse any encounter, nor say a word to the 
contrary whatsoever is proposed, yieldeth access to the lewdest 
designs, acts and passions that be. An evil guardian and 
keeper of childhood and young age is this excessive bashfulness, 
as Brutus well said, who was of this mind, that neither he nor 
she could well and honestly pass the flower of their fresh youth, 
who had not the heart and face to refuse and deny anything; 
even so likewise a bad governess it is of the bride-bed and 
women's chamber, according to that which she said in Sophocles 
to the adulterer who repented of the fact: 

Thy flattering words have me seduced, 
And so persuaded, I am abused. 

In such sort as this bashfulness, over and besides that it is 

192 Plutarch's Morals 

vicioas and faulty itself, spoileth and marreth clean the intem- 
perate and incontinent person, by making no resistance to his 
appetites and demands, but letting all lie unfortified, unbarred 
and unlocked, yielding easy access and entrance to those that 
will make assault and give the attempt, who may by great gifts 
and large offers catch and compass the wickedest natures that 
be: but surely by persuasions and inductions, and by the means 
withal of this excessive bashfulness, they oftentimes conquer 
and get the mastery even of such as are of honest and gentle 

Here I pass by the detriments and damages that this bashful- 
ness hath been the cause of in many matters, and that of profit 
and commodity: namely, how many men, having not the heart 
to say nay, have put forth and lent their money even to those 
whose credit they distrust; have been sureties for such as 
otherwise they would have been loth and unwilling to -engage 
themselves for, who can approve and commend this golden 
sentence (written upon the temple of Apollo), Be surety thou 
mayst, but make account then to pay: howbeit, they have not 
the power to do themselves good by that warning when they 
come to deal in the world. And how many have come unto 
their end and died by the means of this foolish quality, it were 
hard to reckon. For Creon in Euripides, when he spake thus 
unto Medea: 

For me, madame, it were much better now 
By flat denial your mind to discontent, 

Than having once thus yielded unto you 
Sigh afterwards full sore, and ay repent, 

gave a very good lesson for others to follow; but himself over- 
come at length through his foolish bashfulness, granting one 
day longer of delay at her request, overthrew his own state and 
his whole house. Some there were also, who doubting and 
suspecting that they were laid for to be bloodily murdered, or 
made away by poison, yet upon a foolish modesty not refusing 
to go into the place of danger, came to their death and were 
soon destroyed. Thus died Dion; who, notwithstanding he 
knew well enough that Callippus laid wait for him to take away 
his life, yet (forsooth) abashed he was to distrust his friend and 
host, and so to stand upon his guard. Thus was Antipater, the 
son of Cassander, massacred ; who having first invited Demetrius 
to supper, was bidden the morrow after to his house like- 
wise; and for that he was abashed to mistrust Demetrius, 
who the day before had trusted him, refused not to go, but after 

Unseemly and Naughty Bashfulness 193 

supper he was murdered for his labour. Moreover, when 
Polysperchon had undertaken and promised unto Cassander for 
the sum of one hundred talents to kill Hercules (a base son of 
King Alexander by Lady Barsine), he sent and requested the 
said Hercules to sup with him in his lodging, the young gentle- 
man had no liking at all to such a bidding, but mistrusting and 
fearing his courtesy, alleged for his excuse that he was not well 
at ease: whereupon Polysperchon came himself in person unto 
him, and in this manner began to persuade: Above all things, 
my good child (quoth he), study and endeavour to imitate the 
humanity and sociable nature of your noble father, unless haply 
you have me in jealousy and suspicion as if I went about to 
compass your death. The youth was abashed to hear him say 
so, and went with him; well, supper was no sooner ended but 
they made an end of the young gentleman also, and strangled 
him outright: so that it is no ridiculous and foolish advertise- 
ment (as some let not to say), but a wise and sage advice of 
Hesiodus, when he saith: 

Thy friend and lover to supper do invite, 
Thy foe leave out, for he will thee requite. 

Be not in any wise bashful and ashamed to refuse his offer whom 
thou knowest to hate thee: but never leave out and reject him 
once who seemeth to put his trust and confidence in thee: for 
if thou do invite, thou shalt be invited again; and if thou be 
bidden to a supper and go, thou canst not choose but bid again; 
if thou abandon once thy distrust and diffidence, which is the 
guard of thy safety, and so mar that good tincture and tem- 
perature by a foolish shame that thou hast, when thou darest 
not refuse. 

Seeing then that this infirmity and malady of the mind is the 
cause of many inconveniences, assay we must to chase it away 
with all the might we have by exercise, beginning at the first 
like as men do in other exercises, with things that are not very 
difficult, nor such as a man may boldly have the face to deny: 
as for example, if at a dinner one chance to drink unto thee, 
when thou hast drunk sufficiently already, be not abashed to 
refuse for to pledge him, neither force thyself, but take the cup 
at his hand and set it down again on the board ; again, there is 
another perchance that amidst his cups challengeth thee to 
hazard or to play at dice; be not ashamed to say him nay, 
neither fear thou although thou receive a flout and scoff at his 
hands for denial: but rather do as Xenophanes did, when one 


194 Plutarch's Morals 

Lasus, the son of Hermiones, called him coward because he 
would not play at dice with him: I confess (quoth he) I am a 
very dastard in those things that be lewd and naught, and I 
dare do nothing at all; moreover, say thou fall into the hands 
of a prattling and talkative busybody, who catcheth hold on 
thee, hangeth upon thee and will not let thee go? be not 
sheepish and bashful; but interrupt and cut his tale short, 
shake him off, I say, but go thou forward and make an end of 
thy business whereabout thou wentest: for such refusals, such 
repulses, shifts, and evasions in small matters, for which men 
cannot greatly complain of us, exercising us not to blush and 
be ashamed when there is no cause, do inure and frame us well 
beforehand unto other occasions of greater importance. 

And here, in this place, it were not amiss to call unto remem- 
brance a speech of Demosthenes : for when the Athenians, being 
solicited and moved to send aid unto Harpalus, were so forward 
in the action that they had put themselves in arms against King 
Alexander, all on a sudden they discovered upon their own 
coasts Philoxenus, the lieutenant-general of the king's forces, 
and chief admiral of his armada at sea: now when the people 
were so astonied upon this unexpected occurrence, that they 
had not a word to say for very fear: What will these men do 
(quoth Demosthenes) when they shall see the sun, who are so 
afraid that they dare not look against a little lamp; even so I 
say to thee that art given much to blush and be abashed : What 
wilt thou be able to do in weighty affairs, namely, when thou 
shalt be encountered by a king; or if the body of some people or 
state be earnest with thee to obtain ought at thy hand that is 
unreasonable? when thou hast not the heart to refuse for to 
pledge a familiar friend if he chance to drink unto thee and offer 
thee a cup of wine ? or if thou canst not find means to escape 
and wind thyself out of the company of a babbling busybody 
that hath fastened and taken hold of thee, but suffer such a 
vain prating fellow as this to walk and lead thee at his pleasure 
up and down, having not so much power as to say thus unto 
him: I will see you again hereafter at some other time, now I 
have no leisure to talk with you. 

Over and besides, the exercise and use of breaking yourselves 
of this bashfulness in praising others for small and light matters, 
will not be unprofitable unto you; as for example: Say that 
when you are at a feast of your friends, the harper or minstrel 
do either play or sing out of tune ; or haply an actor of a comedy, 
dearly hired for a good piece of money, by his ill grace in acting 

Unseemly and Naughty Bashfulness 195 

mar the play and disgrace the author himself, Menander, and 
yet nevertheless, the vulgar sort do applaud, clap their hands, 
and highly commend and admire him for his deed: in mine 
advice it would be no great pain or difficulty for thee to give 
him the hearing with patience and silence, without praising him 
after a servile and flattering manner, otherwise than you think 
it meet and reason: for if in such things as these you be not 
master of yourself, how will you be able to hold when some 
dear friend of yours shall read unto you either some foolish 
rhyme or bad poesy that himself hath composed? if he shall 
shew unto you some oration of his own foolish and ridiculous 
penning? you will fall a-praising of him, will you ? you will keep 
a-clapping of your hands with other flattering jacks? I would 
not else. And if you do so, how can you reprove him when he 
shall commit some gross fault in greater matters? how shall 
you be able to admonish him, if he chance to forget himself in 
the administration of some magistracy or in his carriage in 
wedlock, or in politic government? And verily, for mine own 
part, I do not greatly allow and like of that answer of Pericles, 
who being requested by a friend to bear false witness in his 
behalf, and to bind the same with an oath, whereby he should 
be forsworn: I am your friend (quoth he) as far as the altar; 
as if he should have said: Saving my conscience and duty to 
the gods: for surely he was come too near already unto him. 
But he who hath accustomed himself long before neither to 
praise against his own mind one who hath made an oration, nor 
to applaud unto him who hath sung, nor to laugh heartily at 
him who came out with some stale or poor jest which had no 
grace; he will (I trow) never suffer his friend and familiar to 
proceed so far as to demand such a request of him, or once be 
so bold as to move him (who before had refused in smaller trifles 
to satisfy his desire) in this manner: Be perjured for me; bear 
false witness for my sake; or pronounce an unjust sentence for 
the love of me. 

After the same manner we ought to be prepared and provided 
beforehand against those that be instant to borrow money of 
us, namely, if we have been used to deny them in matters that 
neither be of great moment nor hard to be refused. There was 
one upon a time, who being of this mind, that there was nothing 
so honest as to crave and receive, begged of Archelaus, the king 
of Macedonia (as he sate at supper), the cup of gold whereout 
he drunk himself; the king called unto his page that waited at 
his trencher, and commanded him to give the said cup unto 


Plutarch's Morals 

Euripides, who sat at the board; and withal, casting his eye 
wistly upon the party who craved it: As for you, sir (quoth he), 
worthy you are for your asking to go without; but Euripides 
deserveth to have, though he do not crave. A worthy speech, 
importing thus much, that the judgment of reason ought to be 
the best master and guide to direct us in our gifts and free 
liberality, and not bashfulness and shame to deny. 

But we, contrariwise, neglecting and despising many times 
those that be honest and modest persons, yea, our very familiar 
friends, who have need of our help, and seem to request the 
same, are ready to bestow our bounty upon such as incessantly 
importune us with their impudent craving, not for any affection 
that we have to pleasure them, but because we cannot find in 
our heart to say them nay. Thus did King Antigonus the elder 
to Bias, after he had been a long time an importunate beggar: 
Give this Bias (quoth he) a talent, for methinks he will have it 
perforce : and yet this Antigonus, of all princes and kings that 
ever were, had the best grace and most dexterity to put by and 
shift off such unreasonable beggars : for when a beggarly cynical 
philosopher craved once at his hands a drachm : It is not for a 
king (quoth he) to give a drachm: Why then (quoth the other 
again) give me a talent : Neither is it meet (quoth the king) for 
a cynic to receive a talent. Diogenes, as he walked otherwhiles 
along the Ceramicum (that is, a street in Athens, where stood 
erected the statues of worthy personages), would ask alms of 
those images ; and when some marvelled at him therefore : I do 
it (quoth he) to learn how to take a repulse and denial. Sem- 
blably, we ought first to be trained in small matters, and to 
exercise ourselves in denying slight requests unto such as would 
seem to demand and have at our hands that which is not fit 
and requisite, to the end that we may not be to seek for an 
answer when we would deny them in matters of greater im- 
portance: for as Demosthenes was wont to say: He who hath 
spent and bestowed that which he had otherwise than he should, 
will never employ those things which he hath, not as he ought, 
if peradventure he should be furnished again therewith. And 
look how often we do fail, and be wanting in honest things, and 
yet abound in superfluities, it is a sign that we are in a great 
fault, and many ways shame groweth to us by that means. 

Moreover, so it is, that this excessive bashfulness is not only 
a bad and undiscreet steward to lay out and to disperse our 
money, but also to dispose of our serious affairs and those of 
great consequence, wherein it will not admit the advice and 

Unseemly and Naughty Bashfulness 197 

counsel that reason giveth; for oftentimes it falleth out that 
when we be sick, we send not for the best and most expert 
physicians, in respect of some friend, whom we favour and 
reverence so, as we are loth to do otherwise than he would advise 
us : likewise we chuse for masters and teachers of our children, 
not those always who are best and meetest, but such as make 
suit and means unto us for to be entertained; yea, and many 
times, when we have a cause to be tried in the law, we chuse 
not always the most sufficient and expert advocates or barristers 
for our counsel to plead for us ; but for to gratify a son of some 
familiar friend or kinsman of our own, we commit the cause to 
him for to practise and learn to plead in court to our great cost 
and loss. 

To conclude, we may see many of those that make profession 
of philosophy, to wit, Epicureans, Stoics, and others, how they 
follow this or that sect, not upon their own judgment and 
election; but for that they were importuned by some of their 
kinsfolk or friends thereto, whom they were loth to deny. 
Come on, then, let us long before be exercised against such 
gross faults in vulgar, small and common occasions of this life; 
as, for example, let us break ourselves from using either a barber 
to trim us, or a painter * to draw our picture, for to satisfy the 
appetite of our foolish shamefacedness ; from lodging also in 
some bad inn or hostelry where there is a better near at hand, 
because haply our host the good man of the house hath often- 
times saluted us kindly; but rather make we a custom of it 
(although there be but small difference and odds between one 
and another) always to chuse the better: and like as the 
Pythagoreans observed evermore precisely not to cross the right 
leg with the left, neither to take an odd number for an even, 
though otherwise all things else were equal and indifferent; even 
so are we to draw this into an ordinary practice, that when we 
celebrate any solemn sacrifice, or make a wedding dinner, or 
some great feast, we invite not him who is wont with reverence 
to give us the gentle greeting and good-morrow, or who seeing 
us a great way off useth to run unto us, rather than him whom 
we know to be an honest man and a well-wilier of ours; for 
whosoever is thus inured and exercised long before shall be 
hardly caught and surprised ; nay, rather he shall never be once 
assailed and set upon in weighty matters. And thus much may 
suffice as touching exercise and custom. 

Moreover, to come unto other profitable instructions which 
1 7pa0et, Erasmus seemeth to read yvatpsi, i.e., a fuller. 

i 9 8 

Plutarch's Morals 

we have gathered for this purpose, the principal in mine advice 
is this, which sheweth and teacheth us that all the passions and 
maladies of the mind be ordinarily accompanied with those 
inconveniences which we would seem to avoid by their means : 
as, for example, ambition and desire of honour hath commonly 
attending upon it dishonour; pain usually followeth the love of 
pleasures; labour and travail ensueth upon ease and delicacy; 
repulse, overthrows, and condemnations are the ends that ensue 
daily upon those that are given to be litigious, contentious, and 
desirous to cast, foil and conquer others; semblably it happeneth 
unto excessive bashfulness, which seeming to fly and shun the 
smoke of blame, casteth itself into the very fire and flame of 
infamy. For those who be abashed to gainsay and deny them, 
who importune them unreasonably, and will take no nay in 
things unjust, are constrained afterwards to bear both shame 
and blame at their hands who justly call them to their answer 
and accuse them worthily; and whiles they fear some light 
check or private rebuke, many times they are fain to incur and 
sustain open disgrace and reproach: for being abashed to deny 
a friend who craveth to borrow money, as being loth to say they 
have none, within a while after (with shame enough) they blush, 
when they shall be convinced to have had one; and having 
promised to assist and stand to some who have suit in law, by 
that means are forced to contend with others, and afterwards 
being ashamed thereof, are driven to hide their heads and fly 
out of the way. Also there be many whom this foolish modesty 
hath caused to enter into some disadvantageous promise as 
touching the marriage either of daughter or sister, and being 
entangled therewith have been constrained afterwards upon 
change of mind to break their word and fail in their promise; 
as for him who said in old time, that all the inhabitants of Asia 
served as slaves unto one man; for that they knew not how to 
pronounce one only negative syllable, ov, that is, No; he spake 
not in earnest but by way of bourd, and was disposed to jest: 
but surely these bashful persons may if they list without one 
word spoken, by knitting and bending their brows only, or 
nodding downward to the ground, avoid and escape many 
offices and absurd inconveniences, which oftentimes they do 
unwillingly and only upon importunity. For as Euripides said 
very well: 

Wise men do know how things to take: 

And of silence an answer to make. 

And haply we have more cause to take that course with such 

Unseemly and Naughty Bashfulness 199 

as be senseless and unreasonable: for to those who be honest, 
sensible, and of more humanity, we need not fear to make 
excuse and satisfy them by word of mouth. And for this 
purpose it were not amiss to be furnished with many answers 
and notable apothegms of great and famous persons in times 
past; and to have them ready at hand to allege against such 
importunate and impudent fellows. Such was that saying of 
Phocion to Antipater: You cannot have me to be your friend 
and a flatterer too ; likewise the answer which he made unto the 
Athenians, who were earnest with him to contribute and give 
somewhat toward the charges of solemnising a great feast, and 
withal applauded and clapped their hands: It were a shame 
(quoth he) that I should give anything over and above unto 
you, and not to pay that which I owe to him yonder, pointing 
therewith to Callicles the usurer: for as Thucydides said; It 
is no shame to confess and acknowledge poverty; but more 
shameful it is indeed not to avoid and eschew it. But he who 
by reason of a faint, feeble and delicate heart dare not for foolish 
shame answer thus unto one that demandeth to borrow money : 

My friend, I have in house or purse 
No silver white, for to disburse, 

and then suffereth to pass out of his mouth a promise (as it 
were), an earnest penny or pawn of assurance: 

Is tied by foot with fetters not of brass 

Nor iron wrought ; but shame, and cannot pass. 

But Perseus, when he lent forth a sum of money to one of his 
familiar friends and acquaintance, went into the open market- 
place to pass the contract at the very bank or table of exchangers 
and usurers ; being mindful of that rule and precept of the poet 
Hesiodus, which teacheth us in these words: 

However thou laugh with brother more or less, 
With him make no contract without witness. 

Now when his friend marvelled hereat and said; How now, 
Perseus, so formally and according to law? Yea (quoth he), 
because I would receive my money again of you friendly, and 
not require it by course and suit of law. For many there be who 
at the first upon a kind of foolish modesty are abashed to call 
for assurance and security, but afterward be forced to proceed 
by order of law, and so make their friends their enemies. Again, 
Cato, sending commendatory letters unto Denys the Tyrant, 
in the behalf and favour of one Helicona Cyzicene, as of a kind, 

200 Plutarch's Morals 

modest, and courteous person, subscribed in manner of a post- 
date under his letter thus: That which you read above, take it 
as written in the commendation of a man, that is to say, of a 
living creature by nature mutable. 

Contrariwise, Xenocrates, although he were otherwise in his 
behaviour austere, yet being overcome and yielding to a kind 
of foolish modesty of his own, recommended in his letters unto 
Polysperchon a man of no worth or quality, as it proved after- 
wards by the sequel: Now when as that Macedonian lord bade 
the party welcome, and friendly gave him his hand, and withal 
used some words of course and compliment, demanding whether 
he had need of ought, and bidding him call for what he would; 
he made no more ado, but craved a whole talent of silver at his 
hands; which Polysperchon caused presently indeed to be 
weighed out unto him; but he dispatched his letters withal 
unto Xenocrates to this effect: That from thenceforth he should 
be more circumspect, and consider better whom he recom- 
mended unto him: and verily, herein only was the error of 
Xenocrates, for that he knew not the man for whom he wrote: 
but we oftentimes knowing well enough that they be lewd and 
naughty persons, yet are very forward with our commendatory 
letters ; yea, and that which more is, our purse is open unto them ; 
we are ready to put money into their hands, to our own hindrance 
and damage; not with any pleasure that we take, nor upon 
affection unto them, as they do who bestow their silver upon 
courtesans, pleasants, and flatterers to gratify them; but as 
displeased and discontented with their impudency, which over- 
turned our reason upside down, and forceth us to do against 
our own judgment, in such sort that if ever there were cause 
besides, we may by good reason say unto these bold and shame- 
less beggars, that thus take vantage of our bashfulness: 

I see that I must for your sake, 
Lewd courses ever undertake; 

namely, in bearing false witness, in pronouncing wrong judg- 
ment; in giving my voice at any election for an unworthy and 
unmeet person; or in putting my money into his hands, whom 
I know unsufficient, and who will never repay it. And therefore, 
of all passions this lewd and excessive modesty is that which is 
accompanied presently with repentance, and hath it not follow- 
ing afterwards as the rest: for at the very instant when we give 
away our money, we grieve; when we bear such witness, we 
blush; when we assist them and set to our helping hand, we 

Unseemly and Naughty Bashfulness 201 

incur infamy; and if we furnish them not with that which they 
require, we are convinced as though we were not able. And 
forasmuch as our weakness is such that we cannot deny them 
simply that which they would have, we undertake and promise 
many times unto those who do importune and lie upon us 
uncessantly, even those things that we are not able to compass 
and make good; as namely, our commendatory letters for to 
find favour in princes' courts; to be mediators for them unto 
great rulers and governors, and to talk with them about their 
causes; as being neither willing nor so hardy as thus to say; 
The king knoweth not us; he regardeth others more, and you 
were better go to such and such. After this manner, when 
Lysander had offended King Agesilaus and incurred his heavy 
displeasure, and yet was thought worthy to be chief in credit 
above all those that were about him, in regard of the great 
opinion and reputation that men had of him for his noble acts, 
he never bashed to repel and put back those suitors that came 
unto him, making excuse and bidding them to go unto others, 
and assay them, who were in greater credit with the king than 
himself. For it is no shame not to be able to effect all things, 
but for a man to be driven upon a foolish modesty to enterprise 
such matters as he is neither able to compass nor meet to 
manage, besides that it is shameful, I hold it also a right great 
corrosive to the heart. 

But now to go unto another principle, we ought willingly and 
with a ready heart to do pleasure unto those that request at our 
hands such things as be meet and reasonable; not as forced 
thereto by a rustical fear of shame, but as yielding unto reason 
and equity. Contrariwise, if their demands be hurtful, absurd, 
and without all reason, we ought evermore to have the saying 
of Zeno in readiness, who meeting with a young man, one of his 
acquaintance, walking close under the town wall secretly as if 
he would not be seen, asked of him the cause of his being there, 
and understanding by him that it was because he would avoid 
one of his friends, who had been earnest with him to bear false 
witness in his behalf: What sayst thou (quoth Zeno), sot that 
thou art? Was thy friend so bold and shameless to require 
that of thee which is unreasonable, unjust and hurtful unto 
thee? And darest thou not stand against him in that which is 
just and honest ? For whosoever he was that said : 

A crooked wedge is fit to cleave 

A knotted knurry tree, 
It well beseems against lewd folk 

With lewdness arm'd to be, 

202 Plutarch's Morals 

teacheth us an ill lesson, to learn to be naught ourselves when we 
would be revenged of naughtiness. But such as repulse those who 
impudently and with a shameless face do molest and trouble 
them, not suffering themselves to be overcome with shamefaced- 
ness, but rather shame to grant unto shameless beggars those 
things that be shameful, are wise men and well advised, doing 
herein that which is right and just. 

Now as touching those importunate and shameless persons 
who otherwise are but obscure, base and of no worth, it is of 
no great matter to resist them when they be troublesome unto 
us. And some there be who make no more ado but shift them 
off with laughter or a scoff : like as Theocritus served twain who 
would seem to borrow of him his rubber or currying-comb in 
the very bain; of which two, the one was a mere stranger unto 
him, the other he knew well enough for a notorious thief: I 
know not you (quoth he) to the one; and to the other, I know 
what you are well enough; and so he sent them both away 
with a mere frump. Lysimache, the priestess of Minerva in 
Athens, surnamed Polias, that is, the patroness of the city, 
when certain muleteers who brought sacrifices unto the temple 
called unto her for to pour them out drink freely: No (quoth 
she), my good friends, I may not do so, for fear you will make 
a custom of it. 

Antigonus had under him in his retinue a young gentleman, 
whose father in times past had been a good warrior, and led a 
band or company of soldiers, but himself was a very coward and 
of no service, and when he sued unto him (in regard of his 
birth) to be advanced unto the place of his father, late deceased : 
Young man (quoth he), my manner is to recompense and honour 
the prowess and manhood of my soldiers, and not their good 
parentage. But if the party who assaileth our modesty be a 
noble man, of might and authority (and such kind of persons of 
all other will most hardly endure a repulse, and be put off with 
a denial or excuse, and namely, in the case of giving sentence or 
award in a matter of judgment, or in a voice at the election of 
magistrates), peradventure it may be thought neither easy nor 
necessary to do that which Cato sometimes did, being then but 
of young years, unto Catulus; now this Catulus was a man of 
exceeding great authority among the Romans, and for that time 
bear the censorship, who came unto Cato (then lord high 
treasurer of Rome that year) as a mediator and intercessor for 
one who had been condemned before by Cato in a round fine, 
pressing and importuning him so hard with earnest prayer and 

Unseemly and Naughty Bashfulness 203 

entreaty, that in the end Cato, seeing how urgent and unreason- 
able he was, and not able to endure him any longer, was forced 
to say thus unto him: You would think it a foul disgrace and 
shame for you, Catulus, censor as you are, since you will not 
receive an answer and be gone, if my Serjeants and officers 
here should take you by the head and shoulders and send you 
away: with that, Catulus being abashed and ashamed, departed 
in great anger and discontentment. 

But consider rather and see whether the answer of Agesilaus 
and that which Themistocles made, were not more modest and 
savoured of greater humanity: for Agesilaus, when his own 
father willed him to give sentence in a certain cause that was 
brought before him, against all right and directly contrary to 
the laws : Father (quoth he), yourself have taught me from my 
very childhood to obey the laws; I will be therefore obedient 
still to your good precepts, and pass no judgment against law. 
As for Themistocles, when as Simonides seemed to request of 
him somewhat which was unjust and unlawful: Neither were 
you, Simonides (quoth he), a good poet, if you should not keep 
time and number in your song, nor I a good magistrate if I 
should judge against the law. And yet (as Plato was wont to 
say) it is not for want of due proportion between the neck and 
body of the lute, that one city is at variance with another city, 
and friends fall out and be at difference, doing what mischief 
they can one to another, and suffering the like again; but for 
this rather, that they offend and fail in that which concerneth 
law and justice. Howbeit, you shall have some, who them- 
selves observing the precise rules most exactly according to art 
in music, in grammatical orthography, and in the poetical 
quantity of syllables and measures of feet, can be in hand with 
others, and request them to neglect and forget that which they 
ought to do in the administration of government, in passing of 
judgments, and in their other actions. 

And therefore, with such as these be, I would have you take 
this course which I will now tell you: Is there an advocate or 
rhetorician that doth importune you sitting as judge upon the 
bench? or is there an orator that troubleth you with an un- 
reasonable suit as you sit in council? grant them both that 
which they request, upon condition that the one in the entry 
of his plea will commit a solecism or incongruity, and the other 
in the beginning of his narration come out with some barbarism : 
but it is all to nothing that they will never do so, it would be 
thought such a shame; and in very truth, we see that some of 

204 Plutarch's Morals 

them are so fine eared that they cannot abide in a speech or 
sentence that two vowels should come together: again, Is he 
one of the nobility, or a man of honour and authority, that 
troubleth you with some unhonest suit ? will him likewise for your 
sake to pass through the market-place hopping and dancing, 
making mows, and writhing his mouth; but if he deny so to 
do, then have you good occasion and fit opportunity to come 
upon him with this revie, and demand of him, whether of the 
twain be more dishonest, to make incongruity in speech, and 
to make mows, and set the mouth awry; or to break the laws, 
commit perjury, and beside all right, equity and conscience, to 
award and adjudge more unto the lewd and wicked than to 
good and honest persons? 

Moreover, like as Nicostratus the Argive answered unto 
Archidamus, who solicited him with a good sum of money 
(promising him besides in marriage what lady he would himself 
chuse in all Lacedaemon) to betray and render up by treason 
the town Cromnum : I see well (quoth he), Archidamus, that 
you are not descended from the race of Hercules, for that he 
travelled through the world killing wicked persons whom he 
had vanquished, but your study is to make them wicked who 
are good and honest; even so we ought to say unto him, who 
would be thought a man of worth and good mark, and yet 
cometh to press and force us to commit those deeds which are 
not befitting, that he doth that which beseemeth not his 
nobility or opinion of virtue. 

Now if they be mean and base persons to account who shall 
thus tempt you, go this way to work with such: If he be a 
covetous miser, and one that loveth his money too well, see 
and try whether you can induce and persuade him by all im- 
portunity to credit you with a talent of silver upon your bare 
word, without schedule, obligation or specialty for his security; 
or if he be an ambitious and vain-glorious person, try if you 
can prevail with him so much as to give you the upper hand 
or higher seat in public place; or if he be one that desireth to 
bear rule and office, assay him whether he will give over his 
possibility that he hath to such a magistracy, especially when 
he is in the ready way to obtain it ? Certes, we may well think 
it a very strange and absurd thing that such as they in their 
vices and passions should stand and continue so stiff, so resolute 
and so hard to be removed; and we who profess and would be 
reputed honest men, lovers of virtue, justice and equity, cannot 
be masters of ourselves, but suffer virtue to be subverted, and 

Unseemly and Naughty Bashfulness 205 

cast it at our heels. For if they who by their importunity urge 
our modesty, do it either for their own reputation or their 
authority, it were absurd and beside the purpose for us to 
augment the honour, credit and authority of another, and to 
dishonour, discredit and disgrace ourselves; like unto those who 
be in an ill name, and incur the obloquy of the world, who either 
in public and solemn games defraud those of the prizes and 
rewards who have achieved victory, or who at the election of 
magistrates, deprive those of their right of suffrages and voices 
to whom it doth belong, for to gratify others that deserve it not, 
thereby to procure to the one sort the honour of sitting in high 
places, and to the other the glory of wearing coronets, and so 
by doing pleasure unto others, falsify their own faith, defame 
themselves, and lose the opinion and reputation they had of 
honesty and good conscience. Now if we see that it is for his 
own lucre and gain that any one urge us beyond all reason to 
do a thing, how is it that we do not presently consider that it 
is absurd and without all sense to hazard and put to compromise 
(as it were) our own reputation and virtue for another man, to 
the end that the purse of some one (I know not who) should 
thereby be more weighty and heavy? 

But certainly many there be unto whom such considerations 
as these are presented, and who are not ignorant that they 
tread aside and do amiss; much like to them who, being 
challenged to drink off great bowls full of wine, take pains to 
pledge them with much ado, even so long till their eyes be 
ready to start out of their heads, changing their countenance, 
and panting for want of wind, and all to pleasure those that put 
them to it. But surely this feebleness of mind and faint heart 
of theirs resembleth the weak constitution and temperature of 
the body, which cannot away either with scorching heat or 
chilling cold. For be they praised by those who set upon them 
thus impudently, they are ready to leap out of their skins for 
joy; and say they doubt for to be accused, checked, rebuked or 
suspected, if haply they deny, then they are ready to die for 
woe and fear. 

But we ought to be well defended and fortified against the 
one and the other, that we yield neither to them that terrify 
us, nor to those that flatter us. Thucydides veiily supposing 
it impossible for one to be great or in high place and not envied, 
saith, That the man is well advised and led by good counsel who 
shooteth at the greatest and highest affairs, if he must be 
subject unto envy. For mine own part, thinking as I do, 

206 Plutarch's Morals 

that it is no hard matter to escape envy, but to avoid all 
complaints and to keep ourselves from being molested by 
some one or other that converse with us and keep our 
company, a thing impossible: I suppose it good counsel for 
us, and the best thing we can do for our own safety, to incur 
rather the ill will and displeasure of lewd, importunate and 
unreasonable people, than of those who have just cause to 
blame and accuse us, if against all right and justice we satisfy 
their minds and be ready to do them service and pleasure: as 
for the praises and commendations which proceed from such 
lewd and shameless persons, being as they are in every respect 
counterfeit and sophistical, we ought to beware and take heed 
of; neither must we suffer ourselves as swine to be rubbed, 
scratched or tickled, and all the whiles stand still and gently, 
letting them do with us what they will, until they may with 
ease lay us all along, when we have once yielded to be so handled 
at their pleasure: for surely they that give ear to flatterers 
differ in no respect from those who set out their legs of purpose 
to be supplanted and to have their heels tripped up from under 
them; save only in this, that those are worse foiled and catch 
the more shameful fall, I mean as well such as remit punishment 
to naughty persons, because forsooth they love to be called 
merciful, mild, and gentle; as those on the contrary side, who 
being persuaded by such as praise them, do submit themselves 
to enmities and accusations needless, but yet perilous; as being 
borne in hand and made believe they were the only men, and 
such alone as stood invincible against all flattery, yea, and 
those whom they stick not to term their very mouths and voices ; 
and therefore Bion likened them most aptly to vessels that had 
two ears, for that they might be carried so easily by the ears 
which way a man would : like as it is reported of one Alexinus, 
a sophister, who upon a time as he walked with others in the 
gallery Peripatos, spake all that naught was of Stilpo the 
Megarean: and when one of the company said unto him, 
What mean you by this, considering that of late and no longer 
since than the other day, he gave out of you all the good that 
may be? I wot well (quoth he), for he is a right honest gentle- 
man, and the most courteous person in the world. Contrari- 
wise Menedemus, when he heard that Alexinus had praised him 
many a time; But I (quoth he) do never speak well of Alexinus; 
and therefore a bad man he must needs be, that either praiseth 
a naughty person, or is dispraised of an honest man: So hard 
it was to turn or catch him by any such means as making use 

Unseemly and Naughty Bashfulness 207 

and practising that precept which Hercules Atistheneus taught 
his children, when he admonished and warned them that they 
should never con those thank who praised them: and this was 
nothing else but not to suffer a man's self to be overcome by 
foolish modesty, nor to flatter them again who praised him. 
For this may suffice in mine opinion which Pindarus answered 
upon a time to one who said unto him : That in every place and 
to all men he never ceased to commend him: Grand mercy 
(quoth he), and I will do this favour unto you again that you 
may be a true man of your word, and be thought to have 
spoken nothing but the truth. 

To conclude, that which is good and expedient against all 
other affections and passions, they ought surely to remember 
who are easily overcome by this hurtful modesty, whensoever 
they, giving place soon to the violence of this passion, do 
commit a fault and tread awry against their mind: namely, to 
call to remembrance the marks and prints of remorse and 
repentance sticking fast in their mind, and to repeat eftsoons 
and keep the same a long time. For like as wayfaring men, 
after they have once stumbled upon a stone; or pilots at sea, 
when they have once split their ship upon a rock and suffered 
shipwreck, if they call those accidents to remembrance, for ever 
after do fear and take heed not only of the same, but of such- 
like; even so they that set before their eyes continually the 
dishonours and damages which they have received by this 
hurtful and excessive modesty, and represent the same to their 
mind once wounded and bitten with remorse and repentance, 
will in the like afterwards reclaim themselves, and not so easily 
another time be perverted and seduced out of the right way. 



[A man should have profited but badly in the school of virtue, if 
endeavouring to carry himself honestly toward his friends and 
familiars, yea, and his very enemies, he continue still in evil 
demeanour with his own brethren, unto whom he is joined naturally 
by the streightest line and link that can be devised. But for that 
ever since the beginning of the world this proverbial sentence from 
time to time hath been current and found true; that the unity of 
brethren is a rare thing: Plutarch, after he had complained in the 
very entrance of this little book that such a malady as this reigned 
mightily in his time, goeth about afterwards to apply a remedy 
thereto. And to this effect he sheweth, that since brotherly amity 
is taught and prescribed by nature, those who love not their brethren 
be blockish, unnatural, enemies to their own selves; yea, and the 
greatest atheists that may be found. And albeit the obligation 
wherein we are bound to our parents amounteth to so high a sum 
as we are never able fully to discharge ; he proveth notwithstanding, 
that brotherly love may stand for one very good payment toward 
that debt: whereupon he concludeth, that hatred between brethren 
ought to be banished ; for that if it once creep in and get between, 
it will be a very hard matter to rejoin and reconcile them again. 
Afterwards he teacheth a ready and compendious way how a man 
ought to manage and use a brother ill disposed. In what manner 
brethren should carry themselves one to another, both during the 
life of their father and also after his decease; discoursing at large 
upon the duty of those who are the elder, or higher advanced in 
other respects; as also what they should do, who are the younger; 
namely, that as they are not equal to their other brethren in years, 
so they be their inferiors in place of honour and in wealth; likewise 
what means as well the one as the other are to follow, for to avoid 
envy and jealousy. Which done, he teacheth brethren who in age 
come very near their natural duty and kindness that they ought to 
shew one unto another; to which purpose he produceth proper 
examples of brotherly amity among the pagans: In the end, since 
he cannot possibly effect thus much, that brethren should evermore 
accord well together, he setteth down what course they are to take 
in their differences and disagreements ; and how their friends ought 
to be common between them ; and for a final conclusion, he treateth 
of that honest care and respective regard one of another that they 
ought to have, and especially of their kinsfolk, which he enricheth 
with two other notable examples.] 

Those ancient statues representing the two brethren Castor 
and Pollux, the inhabitants of the city Sparta were wont in 
their language to call Sokclvo.. And two parallel pieces of 


Of Brotherly Love or Amity 209 

timber they are of an equal distance asunder, united and joined 
together by two other pieces overthwart: now it should seem 
that this was a device fitting very well and agreeable to the 
brotherly amity of the said two gods, for to shew that undivisible 
union which was between them; and even so, I also do offer 
and dedicate unto you, Nigrinus and Quintus, this little 
treatise as touching the amity of brethren, a gift common unto 
▼ou both as those who are worthy of the same : for seeing that 
of your own accord you practise that already which it teacheth 
and exhorteth unto, you shall be thought not so much to be 
admonished thereby, as by your example to confirm and testify 
the same which therein is delivered; and the joy which you 
shall conceive to see that approved and commended which 
yourselves do, shall give unto your judgment a farther assurance 
to continue therein; as if your actions were allowed and praised 
by virtuous and honest beholders of the same. 

Aristarchus verily, the father of Theodectes, scoffing at the 
great number of those sophisters or counterfeit sages in his days, 
said: That in old time hardly could be found seven wise men 
throughout the world; but in our days (quoth he) much ado 
there is to find so many fools or ignorant persons. But I may 
very well and truly say: That I see in this age wherein we live 
the amity of brethren to be as rare as their hatred was in times 
past. The examples whereof being so few as they were among 
our ancients, were thought by men in those days living, notable 
arguments to furnish tragedies and theatres with, as matters 
very strange and in a manner fabulous. But contrariwise, all 
they that live in this age, if haply they meet with two brethren 
that be good and kind one to another, wonder and marvel 
thereat as much as if they saw those Molionides (of whom Homer 
speaketh) whose bodies seemed to grow together in one: and 
as incredible and miraculous do they think it, that brethren 
should use in common the patrimony, goods, friends and slaves 
which their fathers left behind unto them, as if one and the 
same soul alone ruled the feet, hands and eyes of two bodies. 

And yet nature herself hath set down a lively example of 
that mutual behaviour and carriage that ought to be among 
brethren, and the same not far off, but even within our own 
bodies, wherein she hath framed and devised for the most part 
those members double, and as a man would say, brethren-like 
and twins, which be necessary, to wit, two hands, two feet, two 
eyes, two ears and two nostrils; shewing thereby that she hath 
thus distinguished them all, not only for their natural health 

210 Plutarch's Morals 

and safety, but also for a mutual and reciprocal help, and not 
for to quarrel and fight one with another. As for the hands, 
when she parted them into many fingers, and those of unequal 
length and bigness, she hath made them of all other organical 
parts the most proper artificious and workmanlike instruments; 
insomuch as that ancient philosopher Anaxagoras ascribed the 
very cause of man's wisdom and understanding unto the hands. 
Howbeit, the contrary unto this should seem rather to be true; 
for man was not the wisest of all other living creatures in regard 
of his hands, but because by nature being endued with reason, 
given to be witty and capable of arts and sciences, he was like- 
wise naturally furnished with such instruments as these. 

Moreover, this is well known unto every man, that nature 
hath formed of one and the same seed, as of one principle of life, 
two, three, and more brethren; not to the end that they should 
be at debate and variance, but that being apart and asunder, 
they might the better and more commodiously help one another. 
For those men with three bodies and a hundred arms apiece, 
which the poets describe unto us (if ever there were any such), 
being joined and grown together in all their parts, were not able 
to do anything at all when they were parted asunder, or as it 
were, without themselves: which brethren can do well enough, 
namely, dwell and keep within house and go abroad together, 
meddle in affairs of state, exercise husbandry and tillage one 
with another, in case they preserve and keep well that principle 
of amity and benevolence which nature hath given them. For 
otherwise they should (I suppose) nothing differ from those feet 
which are ready to trip or supplant one another, and cause them 
to catch a fall: or they should resemble those hands and fingers 
which enfolded and clasp one another untowardly against the 
course of nature. But rather according as in one and the same 
body, the cold, the hot, the dry, and the moist, participating 
likewise in one and the same nature and nourishment, if they 
do accord and agree well together, engender an excellent tem- 
perature and most pleasant harmony, to wit, the health of the 
body, without which, neither all the wealth of the world, as 
men say, 

Nor power of royal majesty, 
Which equal is to deity, 

have any pleasure, grace or profit: but in case these principal 
elements of our life covet to have more than their just propor- 
tion, and thereupon break out into a kind of civil sedition, 
seeking one to surcrease and overgrow another, soon there 

Of Brotherly Love or Amity 2 1 1 

ensueth a filthy corruption and confusion which overthroweth 
the state of the body and the creature itself; semblably, by the 
concord of brethren, the whole race and house is in good case 
and flourisheth, the friends and familiars belonging to them 
(like a melodious quire of musicians) make a sweet consent and 
harmony: for neither they do, nor say, nor think anything that 
jarreth or is contrary one to the other, 

Whereas in discord such, and taking part, 

The worse ef tsoons do speed, whiles better smart ; 

to wit, some ill-tongued varlet and pickthank carry-tale within 

the house, or some flattering claw-back coming between, and 

entering into the house, or else some envious and malicious 

neighbour in the city. For like as diseases do engender in those 

bodies which neither receive nor stand well affected to their 

proper and familiar nourishment, many appetites of strange 

and hurtful meats; even so, a slanderous calumniation of 

jealousy being gotten once among those of a blood and kindred, 

doth draw and bring withal evil words and naughty speeches, 

which from without are always ready enough to run thither where 

as a breach lieth open, and where there is some fault already. 

That divine master and soothsayer of Arcadie, of whom 

Herodotus writeth, when he had lost one of his own natural 

feet, was forced upon necessity to make himself another of 

wood : but a brother being fallen out and at war with a brother, 

and constrained to get some stranger to be his companion, 

either out of the market-place and common hall of the city as 

he walketh there, or from the public place of exercise, where he 

useth to behold the wrestlers and others; in my conceit doth 

nothing' else but willingly cut off a part or limb of his own 

body made of flesh, and engraffed fast unto him, for to set 

another in the place which is of another kind and altogether 

a stranger. For even necessity itself, which doth entertain, 

approve and seek for friendship and mutual acquaintance, 

teacheth us to honour, cherish and preserve that which is of the 

same nature and kind; for that without friends' society and 

fellowship we are not able to live solitary and alone as most 

savage beasts, neither will our nature endure it: and therefore 

in Menander he saith very well and wisely: 

By jolly cheer and bankets day by day, 
Think we to find (O father) trusty friends, 
To whom ourselves and life commit we may? 
No special thing for cost to make amends; 
I found he hath, who by that means hath met 
With shade of friends ; for such I count no bet. 

212 Plutarch's Morals 

For to say a truth, most of our friendships be but shadows, 
semblances and images of that first amity which nature hath 
imprinted and engraffed in children toward their parents, in 
brethren toward their brethren: and he who doth not reverence 
nor honour it, how can he persuade and make strangers believe 
that he beareth sound and faithful goodwill unto strangers? 
Or what man is he who in his familiar greetings and salutations, 
or in his letters, will call his friend and companion brother, and 
cannot find in his heart so much as to go with his brother in 
the same way ? For as it were a point of great folly and madness 
to adorn the statue of a brother, and in the meantime to beat 
and maim his body; even so, to reverence and honour the name 
of a brother in others, and withal to shun, hate, and disdain a 
brother indeed, were the case of one that were out of his wits, 
and who never conceived in his heart and mind that nature is 
the most sacred and holy thing in the world. 

And here, in this place, I cannot choose but call to mind how 
at Rome upon a time I took upon me to be umpire between two 
brethren, of whom the one seemed to make profession of 
philosophy; but he was (as after it appeared) not only untruly 
entituled by the name of a brother, but also as falsely called a 
philosopher: for when I requested of him that he should carry 
himself as a philosopher toward his brother, and such a brother 
as altogether was unlettered and ignorant: In that you say 
(ignorant quoth he) I hold well with you, and I avow it a truth; 
but as for brother, I take it for no such great and venerable 
matter to have sprung from the same loins, or to have come 
forth of one womb. Well (said I again), it appears that you 
make no great account to issue out of the same natural members ; 
but all men else besides you, if they do not think and imagine 
so in their hearts, yet I am sure they do both sing and say that 
nature first, and then law (which doth preserve and maintain 
nature), have given the chief place of reverence and honour 
next after the gods unto father and mother; neither can men 
perform any service more acceptable unto the gods than to pay 
willingly, readily, and affectionately unto parents who begat 
and brought them forth, unto nurses and fosters that reared 
them up, the interest and usury for the old thanks, besides the 
new which are due unto them. 

And on the other side again, there is not a more certain sign 
and mark of a very atheist, than either to neglect parents, or 
to be any ways ungracious or defective in duty unto them : and 
therefore, whereas we are forbidden in express terms by the law 

Of Brotherly Love or Amity 213 

to do wrong or hurt unto other men: if one do not behave 
himself to father and mother both in word and deed, so as they 
may have (I do not say no discontentment and displeasure, but) 
joy and comfort thereby, men esteem him to be profane, godless, 
and irreligious. Tell me now, what action, what grace, what 
disposition of children towards their parents, can be more 
agreeable and yield them greater contentment than to see good- 
will, kind affection, fast and assured love between brethren? the 
which a man may easily gather by the contrary in other smaller 
matters. For seeing that fathers and mothers be displeased 
otherwhiles with their sons, if they misuse or hardly intreat some 
home-born slave whom they set much store by: if, I say, they 
be vexed and angry when they see them to make no reckoning 
and care of their woods and grounds wherein they took some 
joy and delight; considering also that the good, kind-hearted 
old folk of a gentle and loving affection that they have, be 
offended if some hound or dog bred up within house, or an horse, 
be not well tended and looked unto; last of all, if they grieve 
when they perceive their children to mock, find fault with, or 
despise the lectures, narrations, sports, sights, wrestlers, and 
others that exercise feats of activity, which themselves sometime 
highly esteemed: Is there any likelihood that they in any 
measure can endure to see their children hate one another? to 
entertain brawls and quarrels continually? to be ever snarling, 
railing and reviling one another? and in all enterprises and 
actions always crossing, thwarting and supplanting one another? 
I suppose there is no man will so say. 

Then on the contrary side, if brethren love together and be 
ready one to do for another; if they draw in one line and carry 
the like affection with them; follow the same studies and take 
the same courses; and how much nature hath divided and 
separated them in body, so much to join for it again in mind; 
lending one another their helping hands in all their negotiations 
and affairs; following the same exercises; repairing to the 
same disputations; and frequenting the same plays, games, and 
pastimes, so as they agree and communicate in all things: 
certainly this great love and amity among brethren must needs 
yield sweet joy and happy comfort to their father and mother 
in their old age: and therefore parents take nothing so much 
pleasure when their children prove eloquent orators, wealthy 
men, or advanced to promotions and high places of dignities; 
as loving and kind one to another; like as a man shall never 
see a father so desirous of eloquence, of riches, or of honour, 

214 Plutarch's Morals 

as he is loving to his own children. It is reported of Queen 
Apollonis the Cyzicen, mother to King Eumenes and to three 
other princes, to wit, Attalus, Philetserus, and Athenseus, that 
she reputed and reported herself to be right happy, and rendered 
thanks unto the immortal gods, not for her riches nor royal 
port and majesty; but that it was her good fortune to see those 
three younger sons of hers serving as pensioners and esquires of 
the body to Eumenes their elder brother, and himself living 
fearless and in as security in the midst of them, standing about 
his person with their pollaxes, halberds, and partisans in their 
hands, and girded with swords by their sides. On the other 
side, King Xerxes, perceiving that his son Ochus set an ambush 
and laid trains to murder his brethren, died for very sorrow and 
anguish of heart. Terrible and grievous are the wars, said 
Euripides, between brethren; but unto their parents above all 
others most grievous; for that whosoever hateth his own 
brother, and may not vouchsafe him a good eye and kind look, 
cannot choose but in his heart blame the father that begat him, 
and the mother that bare him. 

We read that Pisistratus married his second wife when his sons 
whom he had by the former were now men grown, saying: That 
since he saw them prove so good and towardly, he gladly would 
be the father of many more that might grow up like them; even 
so, good and loyal children will not only affect and love one 
another for their parents' sakes, but also love their parents so 
much the more, in regard of their mutual kindness, as making 
this account, thinking also and saying thus to themselves; 
That they are obliged and bounden unto them in many respects, 
but principally for their brethren, as being the most precious 
heritage, the sweetest and most pleasant possession that they 
inherit by them. And therefore Homer did very well when he 
brought in Telemachus among other calamities of his, reckoning 
this for one, that he had no brother at all; and saying thus: 

For Jupiter my father's race in me alone 
Now ended hath, and given me brother none. 

As for Hesiodus, he did not well to wish and give advice to have 
an only begotten son, to be the full heir and universal inheritor 
of a patrimony; even that Hesiodus who was the disciple of 
those Muses whom men have named /xovcras, as it were 6fiov ova-as, 
for that by reason of their mutual affection and sister-like love 
they keep always together. Certes, the amity of brethren is so 
respective to parents, that it is both a certain demonstration 

Of Brotherly Love or Amity 2 1 5 

that they love father and mother, and also such an example 
and lesson unto their children to love together, as there is none 
other like unto it, but contrariwise, they take an ill precedent 
to hate their own brethren from the first original of their father: 
for he that liveth continually and waxeth old in suits of law, 
in quarrels and dissensions with his own brethren, and afterward 
shall seem to preach unto his children for to live friendly and 
lovingly together, doth as much as he who according to the 
common proverb: 

The sores of others will seem to heal and cure, 
And is himself of ulcers full impure ; 

and so by his own deeds doth weaken the efficacy of his words. 
If then Eteocles the Theban, when he had once said unto his 
brother Polynices, in Euripides: 

To stars about sun-rising would I mount, 
And under earth descend as far again, 
By these attempts, if I might make account 
This sovereign royalty of gods to gain, 

should come afterwards again unto his sons and admonish 


For to maintain and honour equal state, 
Which knits friends ay in perfect unity, 
And keeps those link'd who are confederate, 
Preserving cities in league and amity: 
For nothing more procures security, 
In all the world, than doth equality, 

who would not mock him and despise his admonition? And 
what kind of man would Atreus have been reputed, if after he 
had set such a supper as he did before his brother, he should in 
this manner have spoken sentences and given instruction to his 
own children? 

When great mishap and cross calamity 

Upon a man is fallen suddenly, 

The only meed is found by amity 

Of those whom blood hath joined perfectly. 

Banish therefore we must, and rid away clean, all hatred from 
among brethren, as a thing which is a bad nurse to parents in 
their old age, and a worse fostress to children in their youth; 
besides, it giveth occasion of slander, calumniation and obloquy 
among their fellow-citizens and neighbours, for thus do men 
conceive and deem of it: That brethren having been nourished 
and brought up together so familiarly from their very cradle, 

216 Plutarch's Morals 

it cannot be that they should fall out and grow to such terms 
of enmity and hostility, unless they were privy one to another 
of some wicked plots and most mischievous practices. For 
great causes they must be that are able to undo great friendship 
and amity, by means whereof hardly or unneth afterwards they 
can be reconciled and surely knit again. For like as sundry 
pieces which have been once artificially joined together by the 
means of glue or solder, if the joint be loose or open, may be 
rejoined or soldered again; but if an entire body that naturally 
is united and grown in one, chance to be broken or cut and slit 
asunder, it will be an hard piece of work to find any glue or 
solder so strong as to reunite the same and make it whole and 
sound, even so those mutual amities which either for profit or 
upon some need were first knit between men, happen to cleave 
and part in twain, it is an easy matter to reduce them close 
together; but brethren if they be once alienated and estranged, 
so as that the natural bond of love cannot hold them together, 
hardly will they piece again or agree ever after: and say they 
be made friends and brought to atonement, certainly such 
reconciliation maketh in the former rent or breach an ill- 
favoured and filthy scar, as being always full of jealousy, 
distrust, and suspicion. 

True it is that all jars and enmities between man and man, 
entering into the heart, together with those passions which be 
most troublesome and dangerous of all others, to wit, a peevish 
humour of contention, choler, envy, and remembrance of injuries 
done and past, do breed grief, pain, and vexation; but surely 
that which is fallen between brother and brother, who of 
necessity are to communicate together in all sacrifices and 
religious ceremonies belonging to their father's house, who are 
to be interred another day in one and the same sepulchre, and 
live in the meantime otherwhiles under one roof, and dwell in 
the same house, and enjoy possessions, lands, and tenements 
confining one upon another, doth continually present unto the 
eye that which tormenteth the heart, it putteth them in mind 
daily and hourly of their folly and madness; for by means 
thereof that face and countenance which should be most sweet, 
best known, and of all other likest, is become most strange, 
hideous and unpleasant to the eye; that voice which was wont 
to be even from the cradle friendly and familiar, is now become 
most fearful and terrible to the ear; and whereas they see 
many other brethren cohabit together in one house, sit at one 
table to take their repast, occupy the same lands, and use the 

Of Brotherly Love or Amity 217 

same servants, without dividing them; what a grief is it that 
they, thus fallen out, should part their friends, their hosts and 
guests, and in one word, make all things that be common among 
other brethren, private, and whatsoever should be familiar and 
acceptable, to become contrary and odious ? Over and besides, 
here is another inconvenience and mischief which there is no 
man so simple but he must needs conceive and understand: 
That ordinary friends and table companions may be gotten and 
stolen (as it were) from others ; alliance and acquaintance there 
may be had new, if the former be lost, even as armour, weapons 
and tools may be repaired if they be worn, or new made if the 
first be gone; but to recover a brother that is lost, it is not 
possible, no more than to make a new hand, if one be cut away, 
or to set in another eye in the place of that which is plucked out 
of the head: and therefore well said that Persian lady, when 
she chose rather to save the life of her brethren than of her 
children: For children (quoth she) I may have more, but since 
my father and mother be both dead, brother shall I never have. 
But what is to be done, will some man say, in case one be 
matched with a bad brother? First, this we ought evermore 
to remember, that in all sorts of amities there is to be found 
some badness ; and most true is that saying of Sophocles : 

Who list to search throughout mankind, 
More bad than good is sure to find. 

No kindred there is, no society, no fellowship, no amity and 
love, that can be found sincere, sound, pure, and clear from all 
faults. The Lacedaemonian who had married a wife of little 
stature: We must (quoth he) of evils chuse ever the least; 
even so in mine advice a man may very well and wisely give 
counsel unto brethren, to bear rather with the most domestical 
imperfections and the infirmities of their own blood, than to try 
those of strangers; for as the one is blameless because it is 
necessary, so the other is blameworthy, for that it is voluntary: 
for neither table-friend and fellow-gamester, nor play-fere of the 
same age, nor yet host or guest, 

Is bound with links (of brass by hand not wrought) 
Which shame by kind hath forg'd, and cost us nought, 

but rather that friend who is of the same blood, who had his 
nourishment and bringing up with us, begotten of one father, 
and who lay in the same mother's womb ; unto whom it seemeth 
that Virtue x herself doth allow connivancy and pardon of some 
1 i.e., Minerva, Odyssey, v. 331. 

2i 8 Plutarch's Morals 

faults, so as a man may say unto a brother when he doth a 

Witless, stark naught, yea, wretched though thou be, 

Yet can I not forsake and cast off thee, 

lest that (ere I be well aware) I might seem in my hatred towards 
thee for to punish sharply, cruelly and unnaturally in thy person 
some infirmity or vice of mine own father or mother instilled 
into thee by their seed. As for strangers and such as are not of 
our blood, we ought not to love first, and afterwards make trial 
and judgment of them; but first we must try and then trust 
and love them afterwards; whereas contrariwise, nature hath 
not given unto proof and experience the precedence and pre- 
rogative to go before love, neither doth she expect according to 
that common proverb; That a man should eat a bushel x or 
two of salt with one whom he minded to love and make his 
friend ; but even from our nativity hath bred in us and with us 
the very principle and cause of amity, in which regard we ought 
not to be bitter unto such, nor to search too nearly into their 
faults and infirmities. 

But what will you say now if contrariwise some there be, who 
if mere aliens and strangers otherwise, yet if they take a foolish 
love and liking unto them, either at the tavern or at some game 
and pastime, or fall acquainted with them at the wrestling or 
fencing school, can be content to wink at their faults, be ready 
to excuse and justify them, yea, and take delight and pleasure 
therein; but if their brethren do amiss, they be exceeding 
rigorous unto them and inexorable; nay, you shall have many 
such, who can abide to love churlish dogs and skittish horses, 
yea, and find in their hearts to feed and make much of fell 
ounces, shrewd cats, curst unhappy apes, and terrible lions; but 
they cannot endure the hasty and choleric humour, the error 
and ignorance, or some little ambitious humour of a brother. 
Others again there be who unto their concubines and harlots 
will not stick to assign over and pass away goodly houses and 
fair lands lying thereto; but with their brethren they will 
wrangle and go to law, nay, they will be ready to enter the lists 
and combat for a plot of ground whereupon a house standeth, 
about some corner of a messuage or end of a little tenement and 
afterwards attributing unto this their hatred of brethren the 
colourable name of hating sin and wickedness, they go up and 
down cursing, detesting, and reproaching them for their vices, 

1 Medimnus is a measure containing six modii, which is about six pecks 
with us. 

Of Brotherly Love or Amity 2 1 9 

whiles in others they are never offended nor discontented there- 
with, but are willing enough daily to frequent and haunt their 
company. Thus much in general terms by way of preamble or 
proem of this whole treatise. 

It remaineth now that I should enter into the doctrine and 
instructions thereto belonging: wherein I will not begin as 
other have done at the partition of their heritage or patrimony; 
but at the naughty emulation, heart-burning and jealousy which 
ariseth between them during the life of their parents. Agesilaus, 
King of Lacedaemon, was wont always to send as a present unto 
each one of the ancients of the city, ever as they were created 
senators, a good ox, in testimony that he honoured their virtue : 
at length the lords, called Ephori, who were the censurers and 
overseers of each man's behaviour, condemned him for this in 
a fine to be paid unto the state, subscribing and adding a reason 
withal; for that by these gifts and largesses he went about to 
steal away their hearts and favours to himself alone, which 
ought indifferently to regard the whole body of the city; even 
so a man may do well to give this counsel unto a son, in such 
wise to respect and honour his father and mother, that he seek 
not thereby to gain their whole love, nor seem to turn away 
their favour and affection from other children wholly unto 
himself; by which practice many do prevent, undermine, and 
supplant their brethren, and thus under a colourable and honest 
pretence in shew, but in deed unjust and unequal, cloak and 
cover their avarice and covetous desire ; for after a cautelous and 
subtle manner they insinuate themselves and get between them 
and home, and so defraud and cozen them ungentlemanly of 
their parents' love, which is the greatest and fairest portion of 
their inheritance, who espying their time, and taking the oppor- 
tunity and vantage when their brethren be otherwise employed, 
and least doubt of their practices, then they bestir them most, 
and shew themselves in best order, obsequious, double-diligent, 
sober and modest, and namely in such things as their other 
brethren do either fail or seem to be slack and forgetful. But 
brethren ought to do clean contrary, for if they perceive their 
father to be angry and displeased with one of them, they should 
interpose themselves and undergo some part of the heavy load, 
they ought to ease their brother, and by bearing a part, help to 
make the burden lighter: then (I say) must they by their service 
and ministry gratify their brother so much as to bring him in 
some sort in grace and favour again with their father, and when 
he hath failed so far forth in neglecting the opportunity of time, 

220 Plutarch's Morals 

or omitting some other business which hardly will afford excuse, 
they are to lay the fault and blame upon his very nature and 
disposition, as being more meet and fitted for other matters. 
And hereto accordeth well that speech of Agamemnon in Homer: 

He faulted not through idleness, 

Nor yet for want of wit, 
But look'd on me, and did expect 

My motive unto it. 

Even so one good brother may excuse another and say: He 
thought I should have done it, and left this duty for me to do : 
neither are fathers themselves strait-laced, but willingly enough 
to admit such translations and gentle inversions of names as. 
these ; they can be content to believe their children, when they 
term the supine negligence of their brethren plain simplicity, 
their stupidity and blockishness, upright dealing and a good 
conscience; their quarrelous and litigious nature, a mind loth 
to be trodden under foot and utterly despised. 

In this manner he that will proceed with an intent only to 
appease his father's wrath shall gain thus much moreover; 
That not only his father's choler will thereby be much diminished 
toward his brother, but his love also much more increased unto 
himself: howbeit, afterwards when he hath thus made all well, 
and satisfied his father to his good contentment, then must he 
turn and address himself to his brother apart, touch him to the 
quick, spare him never a whit, but with all liberty of language 
tell him roundly of his fault and rebuke him for his trespass; 
for surely it is not good to use indulgency and connivancy to a 
brother, no more than to insult over him too much, and tread him 
under foot if he have done amiss, for as this bewrayeth a joy that 
one taketh at his fall, so that implieth a guiltiness with him 
in the same transgression: but in this rebuke and reproof such 
measure would be kept that it may testify a care to do him good, 
and yet a displeasure for his fault; for commonly he that hath 
been a most earnest advocate and affectionate intercessor for 
him to his father and mother, will be his sharpest accuser after- 
wards when he hath him alone by himself. But put the case, 
that a brother having not at all offended, be blamed notwith- 
standing and accused to father and mother, howsoever in other 
things it is the part of humanity and dutiful kindness to sustain 
and bear all anger and froward displeasure of parents; yet in 
this case the allegations and defences of one brother in the 
justification of another, when he is innocent, unjustly traduced, 
and hardly used or wronged by his parents, are not to be blamed, 

Of Brotherly Love or Amity 221 

but allowable and grounded upon honesty: neither need a 
brother fear to hear that reproach in Sophocles: 

Thou graceless imp, so far grown out of kind, 
As with thy sire a counter plea to find, 

when frankly and freely he speaketh in the behalf of his brother, 
seeming to be unjustly condemned and oppressed. For surely 
by this manner of process and pleading, they that are convicted 
take more joy in being overthrown than if they had gained the 
victory and better hand. 

Now after that a father is deceased, it is well beseeming and 
fit that brethren should more affectionately love than before, 
and stick more close together: for then presently their natural 
love unto their father which is common to them all ought to 
appear indifferently in mourning together and lamenting for 
his death: then are they to reject and cast behind them all 
suspicions surmised or buzzed into their heads by varlets and 
servants, all slanderous calumniations and false reports, brought 
unto them by pick-thanks and carry-tales on both sides, who 
would gladly sow some dissension between them : then are they 
to give ear unto that which fables do report of the reciprocal 
love of Castor and Pollux; and namely, how it is said, that 
Pollux killed one with his fist for rounding him in the ear, and 
whispering a tale against his brother Castor. Afterwards, when 
they shall come to the parting of their patrimony and father's 
goods among them, they ought not (as it were) to give defiance 
and denounce war one against another, as many there be who 
come prepared for that purpose ready to encounter, singing this 

O Alal' Alala, now hearken and come fight, 
Who art of war so fell, the daughter right. 

But that very day of all others they ought to regard and observe 
most, as being the time which to them is the beginning either of 
mortal war and enmity irreconcileable, or else of perfect friend- 
ship and amity perdurable : at which instant they ought among 
themselves alone to divide their portions, if it be possible; if 
not, then to do it in the presence of one indifferent and common 
friend between them, who may be a witness to their whole order 
and proceeding; and so, when after a loving and kind manner, 
and as becometh honest and well-disposed persons, they have 
by casting lots gotten each one that which is his right: by 
which course (as Plato said) they ought to think that there is 
given and received that which is meet and agreeable for every 

222 Plutarch's Morals 

one. and so to hold themselves therewith contented : this done, 
I say they are to make account that the ordering, managing, 
and administration only of the goods and heritage is parted and 
divided; but the enjoying, use, and possession of all remaineth 
yet whole in common between them. But those that in this 
partition and distribution of goods pluck one from another the 
nurses that gave them suck, or such youths as were fostered 
and brought up together with them of infants, and with whom 
always they had lived and loved familiarly; well may they 
prevail so far forth with eager pursuing their wilfulness, as to go 
away with the gain of a slave, perhaps of greater price: but 
instead thereof they lose the greatest and most precious things 
in all their patrimony and inheritance, and utterly betray the 
love of a brother, and the confidence that otherwise they might 
have had in him. Some also we have known, who upon a 
peevish wilfulness only, and a quarrelous humour, and without 
any gain at all, have in the partition of their father's goods 
carried themselves no better nor with greater modesty and 
respect, than if it had been some booty or pillage gotten in war. 
Such were Charicles and Antiochus, of the city Opus, two 
brethren, who ever as they met with a piece of silver plate, 
made no more ado but cut it quite through the midst, and if 
there came a garment into their hands, in two pieces it went, 
slit (as near as they could aim) just in the middle, and so they 
went either of them away with his part, dividing (as it were) 
upon some tragical curse and execration 

Their house and all the goods therein 
By edge of sword so sharp and keen. 

Others there be who make their boast and report with joy unto 
others, how in the partition of their patrimony they have by 
cunning casts coney-catched their brethren, and over-wrought 
them so by their cautelous circumvention, fine wit and sly 
policies, as that they have gone away with the better part by 
odds: whereas indeed they should rejoice rather and please 
themselves, if in modesty, courtesy, kindness, and yielding of 
their own right they had surpassed and gone beyond their 
brethren. In which regard Athenodorus deserveth to be remem- 
bered in this place; and indeed there is not one here in these 
parts but remembereth him well enough. This Athenodorus 
had one brother elder than himself, named Zenon, who having 
taken upon him the management of the patrimony left unto 
them both by their father, had embezzled and made away a 

Of Brotherly Love or Amity 223 

good part of it ; and in the end, for that by force he had carried 
away a woman and married her, was condemned for a rape, and 
lost all his own and his brother's goods, which by order of law 
was forfeit and confiscate to the exchequer of the emperor: now 
was Athenodorus abovesaid a very beardless boy still, without 
any hair on his face; and when by equity and the court of 
conscience, his portion out of his father's goods was awarded 
and restored unto him, he forsook not his brother, but brought 
all abroad and parted the one half thereof with him again; and 
notwithstanding that he knew well enough that his brother had 
used no fair play, but cunningly defrauded him of much in the 
division thereof, yet was he never angry with him nor repented 
of his kindness, but mildly, cheerfully, and patiently endured 
that unthankfulness and folly of his brother, so much divulged 
and talked of throughout all Greece. 

As for Solon, when he pronounced sentence and determined 
in this manner as touching the government of the weal-public; 
That equality never bred sedition; seemed very confusedly to 
bring in the proportion arithmetical which is popular, in place 
of that other fair and good proportion called geometrical. But 
he that in an house or family would advise brethren (as Plato did 
the citizens of his commonwealth), above all, if possible it were 
to take away these words, mine and thine ; mine and not mine ; 
or at leastwise (if that may not be) to stand contented with an 
equal portion, and to maintain and preserve equality; certes, 
he should lay a notable and singular foundation of amity, con- 
cord and peace, and always build thereupon the famous examples 
of most noble and renowned personages, such as Pittachus 
was, who when the King of Lydia demanded of him whether 
he had money and goods enough? I may have (quoth he) more 
by one half if I would, by occasion of my brother's death, whose 
heir I am. 

But forasmuch as not only in the possession, augmentation 
and diminishing of goods, the less is evermore set as an adverse 
and cross enemy to the more, but also (as Plato said) simply 
and universally there is always motion and stirring in un- 
equality, but rest and repose in equality; and so all uneven 
dealing and unequal partition is dangerous for breeding dis- 
sension among brethren : and unpossible it is that in all respects 
they should be even and equal; for that either nature at first 
from their very nativity, or fortune afterwards, hath not 
divided with even hand their several graces and favours among 
them, whereupon proceed envy and jealousy, which are per- 

224 Plutarch's Morals 

nicious maladies and deadly plagues, as well to houses and 
families as also to states and cities: in these regards (I say), ' 
therefore, a great regard and heed would be taken, both to 
prevent and also to remedy such mischiefs with all speed, when 
they begin first to ingender. 

As for him who is indued with better gifts, and hath the 
vantage over his other brethren, it were not amiss to give him 
counsel, first to communicate unto them those gifts wherein he 
seemeth to excel and go beyond them; namely, in gracing and 
honouring them as well as himself by his credit and reputation, 
in advancing them by the means of his great friends, and 
drawing them unto their acquaintance; and in case he be more 
eloquent than they, to offer them the use thereof, which although 
it be employed (as it were) in common, is yet nevertheless his 
own still : then let him not shew any sign of pride and arrogancy, 
as though he disdained them, but rather in some measure by 
abasing, submitting and yielding a little to them in his behaviour, 
to preserve himself from envy, unto which his excellent parts 
do lie open; and in one word, to reduce that inequality which 
fortune hath made, unto some equality, as far forth as possible 
it is to do, by the moderate carriage of his mind. Lucullus 
verily would never deign to accept of any dignity or place of 
rule before his brother, notwithstanding he was his elder, but 
letting his own time slip, expected the turn and course of his 
brother. Neither would Pollux take upon him to be a god alone 
by himself, but chose rather with his brother Castor to be a 
demi-god, and for to communicate unto him his own im- 
mortality, thought it no disgrace to participate with his mortal 
condition; and even so may a man say unto one whom he would 
admonish: My good friend, it lies in you without diminishing 
one whit of those good things which you have at this present, to 
make your brother equal unto yourself, and to join him in 
honour with you, giving him leave to enjoy (as it were) your 
greatness, your glory, your virtue, and your fortune; like as 
Plato did in times past, who by putting down in writing the name 
of his brethren, and bringing them in as persons speaking in his 
most noble and excellent treatises, caused them by that means 
to be famous and renowned in the world. Thus he graced 
Glaucus and Adamantus in his books of policy: thus he honoured 
Antiphon, the youngest of them all, in his dialogue named 

Moreover, as it is an ordinary thing to observe great difference 
and odds in the natures and fortunes of brethren; so it is in 

Of Brotherly Love or Amity 225 

manner impossible, that in all things and in every respect any 
one of them should excel the rest. For true it is, that the four 
elements, which they say were created of one and the same 
matter, have powers and qualities altogether contrary; but 
surely it was never yet seen that of two brethren by one father 
and mother, the one should be like unto that wise man whom 
the Stoics do feign and imagine, to wit, fair, lovely, bountiful, 
honourable, rich, eloquent, studious, civil, and courteous; and 
the other, foul, ill-favoured, contemptible, illiberal, needy, not 
able to speak and deliver his mind, untaught, ignorant, uncivil 
and unsociable. But even in those that are more obscure, base, 
and abject than others there is after a sort some spark of grace, 
of valour, of aptness and inclination to one good thing or other: 
for as the common proverb goeth: 

With calthrap thistles, rough and keen, with prickyrest-harow, 
Close Sions fair and soft, yea, white-wallflowers are seen to grow. 

These good parts, therefore, be they more or less in others, if he 
that seemeth to have them in far better and in greater measure, 
do not debase, smother, hide, and hinder them, nor deject his 
brother (as in some solemnity of games for the prize) from all 
the principal honours, but rather yield reciprocally unto him in 
some points, and acknowledge openly that in many things he is 
more excellent, and hath a greater dexterity than himself, with- 
drawing always closely all occasions and matter of envy, as it 
were fuel from the fire, shall either quench all debate, or rather 
not suffer it at all to breed or grow to any head and substance. 
Now he that always taketh his brother as a colleague, 
counsellor, and coadjutor with him, in those causes wherein 
himself is taken to be his superior: as, for example, if he be 
a professed rhetorician and orator, using his brother to plead 
causes; if he be a politician, asking his advice in government; 
if a man greatly friended, employing him in actions and affairs 
abroad; and in one word, in no matter of consequence and 
which may win credit and reputation, leaving not his brother 
out, but making him his fellow and companion in all great and 
honourable occasions, and so giving out of him, taking his 
counsel if he be present, and expecting his presence if he be 
absent, and generally making it known that he is a man not of 
less execution than himself, but one rather that loveth not much 
to put himself forth, nor stands so much upon winning reputa- 
tion in the world, and seeking to be advanced in credit; by this 
means he shall lose nothing of his own, but gain much unto his 


226 Plutarch's Morals 

brother. These be the precepts and advertisements that a man 
may give unto him that is the better and superior. 

To come now to him who is the inferior, he ought thus to think 
in his mind: That his brother is not one alone that hath no 
fellow, nor the only man in the world who is richer, better 
learned, or more renowned and glorious than himself, but that 
oftentimes he also is inferior to a great number, yea, and to 
many millions of us men, 

Who on the earth so large do breed, 
Upon her fruits who live and feed. 

but if he be such an one as either goeth up and down, bearing 
envy unto all the world; or if he be of so ill a nature, as that 
among so many men that are fortunate, he alone and none but 
he troubleth him, who ought of all other to be dearest and is 
most nearly joined unto him by the obligation of blood, a man 
may well say of him; That he is unhappy in the highest degree, 
and hath not left unto another man living any means to go 
beyond him in wretchedness. As Metellus therefore thought 
that the Romans were bound to render thanks unto the gods 
in heaven, for that Scipio, so noble and brave a man, was born 
in Rome and not in any other city; so every man is to wish and 
pray unto the gods, that himself may surmount all other men 
in prosperity, if not, yet that he might have a brother at leastwise 
to attain unto that power and authority so much desired; but 
some there be so unfortunate and unlucky by nature, in respect 
of any goodness in them, that they can rejoice and take a great 
glory in this, to have their friends advanced unto high places 
of honour, or to see their hosts and guests abroad, princes, rulers, 
rich and mighty men, but the resplendent glory of their brethren 
they think doth eclipse and darken their own renown; they 
delight and joy to hear the fortunate exploits of their fathers 
recounted, or how their great grandsires long ago had the conduct 
of armies, and were lord praetors and generals in the field, 
wherein they themselves had never any part, nor received 
thereby either honour or profit; but if there have fallen unto 
their brethren any great heritages or possessions, if they have 
risen unto high estate and achieved honourable dignities, if they 
are advanced by rich and noble marriages, then they are cast 
down and their hearts be done. And yet it had behoved and 
right meet it were in the first place, to be envious to no man at 
all ; but if that may not be, the next way were to turn their envy 
outward, and eye-bite strangers, and to shew our spite unto 

Of Brotherly Love or Amity 227 

aliens who are abroad, after the manner of those who to rid 
themselves from civil seditions at home, turn the same upon 
their enemies without, and set them together by the ears, and 
like as Diomedes in Homer said unto Glaucus: 

Of Trojans and their allies both, 

Who aid them for goodwill 
Right many are beside yourself 

For me in fight to kill : 
And you likewise have Greeks enough 

With whom in bloody field 
You may your prowess try, and not 

Meet me with spear and shield. 

Even so it may be said unto them ; There be a number besides 
of concurrents upon whom they may exercise their envy and 
jealousy, and not with their natural brethren; for a brother 
ought not to be like unto one of the balance scales, which doth 
always contrary unto his fellow, for as one riseth the other 
falleth; but as small numbers do multiply the greater and serve 
to make both them bigger, and their selves too; even so, an 
inferior brother by multiplying the state of his brother who is 
his superior, shall both augment him and also increase and 
grow himself together with him in all good things: mark the 
ringers of your hand, that which holdeth not the pen in writing, 
or striketh the string of a lute in playing (for that it is not able 
so to do, nor disposed and made naturally for those uses), is 
never a whit the worse for all that, nor serveth less otherwise, 
but they all stir and move together, yea and in some sort they 
help one another in their actions, as being framed for the nonce, 
unequal and one bigger and longer than other, that by their 
opposition and meeting as it were round together, they might 
comprehend, clasp, and hold anything most sure, strong, and fast. 
Thus Craterus, being the natural brother of King Antigonus, 
who reigned and swayed the sceptre: Thus Perilaus also, the 
brother of Cassander, who ware the crown, gave their minds to 
be brave warriors and to lead armies under their brethren, or 
else applied themselves to govern their houses at home in their 
absence; whereas on the contrary side, the Antiochi and 
Seleuci, as also certain Grypi and Cyziceni and such others, 
having not learned to bear a lower sail than their brethren, 
and who could not content themselves to sing a lower note, nor 
to rest in a second place, but aspiring to the ensigns and orna- 
ments of royal dignity, to wit, the purple mantle of estate with 
crown, diadem, and sceptre, filled themselves and one another 
with many calamities, yea and heaped as many troubles upon 
all Asia throughout. 

228 Plutarch's Morals 

Now forasmuch as those especially who by nature are 
ambitious and disposed to thirst after glory, be for the most 
part envious and jealous toward those who are more honoured 
and renowned than they; it were very expedient for brethren if 
they would avoid this inconvenience, not to seek for to attain 
either honour or authority and credit all by the same means, 
but some by one thing and some by another: for we see by 
daily experience, it is an ordinary matter that wild beasts do 
fight and war one with another, namely, when they feed in one 
and the same pasture; and among champions and such as 
strive for the mastery in feats of activity, we count those for 
their adversaries and concurrents only who profess and practise 
the same kind of game or exercise ; for those that go to it with 
fists and buffets are commonly friends good enough to such 
sword-fencers as fight at sharp to the utterance, and well-willers 
to the champions called Pancratiastae : likewise the runners in 
a race agree full well with wrestlers: these, I say, are ready to 
aid, assist and favour one another, which is the reason that of 
the two sons of Tyndarus, Pollux won the prize always at 
buffets, but Castor, his brother, went away with the victory in 
the race. And Homer very well in his poem feigned that 
Teucer was an excellent archer, and became famous thereby, 
but his brother Ajax was best at close fight and hand-strokes, 
standing to it heavily armed at all pieces: 

And with his shield so bright and wide 
His brother Teucer he did hide. 

And thus it is with them that govern a state and commonweal; 
those that be men of arms and manage martial affairs never 
lightly do envy them much who deal in civil causes and use to 
make speeches unto the people; likewise among those that 
profess rhetoric and eloquence, advocates who plead at bar, 
never fall out with those sophisters that read lectures of oratory; 
among professors of physic, they that cure by diet envy not the 
chirurgeons who work by hand; whereas they who endeavour 
and seek to win credit and estimation by the same art, or by 
their faculty and sufficiency in any one thing, do as much 
(especially if they be badly minded withal) as those rivals who, 
loving one mistress, would be better welcome and find more 
grace and favour at her hands one than another. 

True it is, I must needs confess, that they who go divers 
ways do no good one to another; but surely such as choose 
sundry courses of life do not only avoid the occasions of envy, 

Of Brotherly Love or Amity 229 

but also by that means the rather have mutual help one by the 
other: thus Demosthenes and Chares sorted well together; 
iEschines likewise and Eubulus accorded; Hyperides also and 
Leosthenes were lovers and friends; in every which couple the 
former employed themselves in pleading and speaking before 
the people, and were writers and pen-men, whereas the other 
conducted armies, were warriors and men of action. Brethren 
therefore who cannot communicate in glory and credit together 
without envy, ought to set their desires and ambitious minds as 
far remote one from another, and turn them full as contrary as 
they can, if they would find comfort, and not receive displeasure 
by the prosperity and happy success one of another: but above 
all, a principal care and regard they must have of their kindred 
and alliance, yea, and otherwhiles of their very wives, and 
namely, when they be ready with their perilous speeches many 
times to blow more coals, and thereby enkindle their ambitious 
humour. Your brother (quoth one) doth wonders ; he carrieth 
all before him; he beareth the sway; no talk there is but of 
him; he is admired, and every man maketh court to him: 
whereas there is no resort to you ; no man cometh toward you ; 
nothing is there in you that men regard or set by. When these 
suggestions shall be thus whispered, a brother that is wise and 
well minded may well say thus again : I have a brother indeed 
whose name is up and carrieth a great side; and verily the 
greater part of his credit and authority is mine and at my 
commandment. For Socrates was wont to say, that he would 
choose rather to have Darius his friend, than his darics. 1 
And a brother who is of sound and good judgment will think 
that he hath no less benefit when his brother is placed in great 
estate of government, blessed with riches, or advanced to credit 
and reputation by his gift of eloquence, than if himself were 
a ruler, wealthy, learned, and eloquent. Thus you may see the 
best and readiest means that are to qualify and mitigate this 
unequality between brethren. 

Now there be other disagreements besides, that grow quickly 
between, especially if they want good bringing up and are not 
well taught, and namely, in regard of their age. For commonly 
the elder, who think that by good right they ought to have the 
command, rule, and government of their younger brethren in 
everything, and who held it great reason that they should be 
honoured, and have power and authority always above them, 

1 An ancient piece of coin with his image, worth two shillings four 
pence, or a tetradrachm Attic. 

230 Plutarch's Morals 

commonly do use them hardly and are nothing kind and light- 
some unto them : the younger again being stubborn, wilful and 
unruly, ready also to shake off the bridle, are wont to make no 
reckoning of their elder brethren's prerogative, but set them at 
naught and despise them; whereby it cometh to pass that as 
the younger of one side envied, are held down with envy, and 
kept under always by their elder brethren, and so shun their 
rebukes and scorn their admonitions; so these, on the other 
side, desirous to hold their own and maintain their pre-eminence 
and sovereignty over them, stand always in dread lest their 
younger brethren should grow too much, as if the rising of them 
were their fall. But like as the case standeth in a benefit or 
good turn that is done, men say it is meet that the receiver 
should esteem the thing greater than it is, and the giver make 
the least of it; even so, he that can persuade the elder, that the 
time whereby he hath the vantage of his other brethren is no 
great thing; and likewise the younger, that he should reckon 
the same birthright for no small matter, he shall do a good deed, 
between them, in delivering the one from disdain, contempt, 
and suspicion, and the other from irreverence and negligence. 

Now forasmuch as it is meet that the elder should take care 
and charge, teach, and instruct, admonish and reprove the 
younger; and as fit likewise the younger should honour, imitate, 
and follow the elder: I could wish that the solicitude and care 
of the elder savoured rather of a companion and fellow than of 
a father; that himself also would seem not so much to command 
as to persuade, and to be more prompt and ready to joy for his 
younger brother's well-doing, and to praise him for it, than in 
any wise take pleasure in reprehending and blaming him if 
haply he have forgotten his duty; and in one word, to do the 
one not only more willingly, but also with greater humanity than 
the other. Moreover, the zeal and emulation in the younger 
ought rather to be of the nature of an imitation, than either 
of jealousy or contention; for that imitation presupposeth 
an opinion of admiration, whereas jealousy and contention 
implieth envy, which is the reason that they affect and love 
those who endeavour to resemble and be like unto them; but 
contrariwise, they are offended at those and keep them down 
who strive to be their equals. 

Now among many honours, which it beseemeth the younger 
to render unto his elder, obedience is that which deserveth most 
commendation, and worketh a more assured and hearty affection 
accompanied with a certain reverence, which causeth the elder 

Of Brotherly Love or Amity 231 

reciprocally and by way of requital to yield the like and to give 
place unto him. Thus Cato, having from his infancy honoured 
and reverenced his elder brother Caepion, by all manner of 
obeisance and silence before him; in the end gained thus much 
by it, that when they were both men grown, he had so won 
him and filled him (as it were) with so great a respect and 
reverence of him, that he would neither say nor do ought without 
his privity and knowledge. For it is reported that when Caepion 
had one day signed and sealed with his own signet a certain 
letter testimonial, Cato his brother coming afterwards would 
not set to his seal; which, when Caepion understood, he called 
for the foresaid testimonial and pluckt away his own seal, 
before he had once demanded for what occasion his brother 
would not believe the deed, but suspected his testimony? It 
seemeth likewise that the brethren of Epicurus shewed great 
respect and reverence unto him, in regard of the love and careful 
goodwill that he bare unto them; which appeared in this, that 
as to all other things else of his, so to his philosophy especially, 
they were so wedded, as if they had been inspired therewith. 
For albeit they were seduced and deceived in their opinion, 
giving out and holding always (as they did) from their infancy, 
that never was any man so deep a clerk nor so great a philosopher 
as their brother Epicurus : yet it is wonderful to consider as well 
him that could so frame and dispose them, as themselves also 
for being so disposed and affectionate unto him. And verily, 
even among the more modern philosophers of later time, 
Apollonius the Peripatetic, had convinced him of untruth 
(whosoever he was) that said lordship and glory could like no 
fellowship, for he made his brother Sotion more famous and 
renowned than himself. For mine own part, to say somewhat 
of myself; albeit that fortune hath done me many favours, in 
regard whereof I am bound to render unto her much thanks; 
there is not any one for which I take myself so much obliged 
and beholden unto her, as for the love that my brother Timon 
hath always shewed and doth yet shew unto me; a thing that 
no man is able to deny who hath never so little been in our 
company, and you least of all others may doubt who have 
conversed so familiarly with us. 

Now there be other occasions of trouble which ought to be 
taken heed of among those brethren which are of like age or 
somewhat near in years; small passions (I wot well) they be, 
but many they are, and those ordinary and continual; by 
means whereof they bring with them an evil custom of vexing, 

232 Plutarch's Morals 

fretting and angering one another ever and anon for small 
things, which in the end turn into hatred and enmity irrecon- 
cilable : for when they have begun to quarrel one with another 
at their games and pastimes, about the feeding and fighting of 
some little creatures that they keep, to wit, quails or cocks, 
and afterwards about the wrestling of their boys and pages at 
the school, or the hunting of their hounds in the chase, or the 
caparison of their horses; they can no more hold and refrain 
(when as they be men) their contentious vein and ambition in 
matters of more importance: thus the greatest and mightiest 
men among the Greeks in our time, banding at the first one 
against another in taking parts with their dancers, and then in 
siding with their minstrels, afterwards by comparing one with 
another who had the better ponds or bathing pools in the 
territory of Edepsus, who had the fairer galleries and walking- 
places, the statelier halls and places of pleasure, evermore 
changing and exchanging, and fighting (as it were) for the 
vantage of a place, striving still by way of odious comparison, 
cutting and diverting another way the conduct pipes of fountains, 
are become so much exasperate one against another, that in the 
meantime they are utterly undone; for the tyrant is come, and 
hath taken all from them; banished they are out of their own 
native country; they wander as poor vagabonds through the 
world, and I may be bold (well near) to say, they are so far 
changed from that they were afore, that they be others quite, 
this only excepted, that they be the same still in hatred one to 
another. Thus it appeareth evidently, that brethren ought not 
a little to resist the jealousy and contentions which breed among 
them upon small trifles, even in the very beginning, and that 
by accustoming themselves to yield and give place reciprocally 
one to another, suffering themselves to be overcome and take the 
foil, and joying rather to pleasure and content one another, 
than to win the better hand one of another: for the victory 
which in old time they called the Cadmian victory was nothing 
else but that victory between brethren about the city of Thebes, 
which is of all other the most wicked and mischievous. 

What shall we say moreover? do not the affairs of this life 
minister many occasions of disagreement and debate even 
among those brethren which are most kind and loving of all 
other? yes, verily. But even therein also, we must be careful 
to let the said affairs to combat alone by themselves, and not to 
put thereto any passion of contention or anger, as an anchor 
or hook to catch hold of the parties, and pull them together for 

Of Brotherly Love or Amity 233 

to quarrel, and enter into debate; but as it were in a balance, 
to look jointly together, on whether side right and equity doth 
encline and bend, and so soon as ever we can, to put matters in 
question to the arbitrament and judgment of some good and 
indifferent persons, to purge and make clear all, before they are 
grown so far as that they have gotten a stain or tincture of 
cankered malice, which afterwards will never be washed or 
scoured out: which done, we are to imitate the Pythagoreans, 
who being neither joined in kindred or consanguinity, nor yet 
allied by affinity, but the scholars in one school, and the fellows 
of one and the same discipline, if perad venture at any time they 
were so far carried away with choler, that they fell to inter- 
change reproachful and reviling taunts, yet before the sun was 
gone down they would shake hands, kiss, and embrace one 
another, be reconciled, and become good friends again. For 
like as if there be a fever, occasioned by a botch or rising in the 
share, there is no danger thereof, but if when the said botch is 
gone, the fever still continue, then it seemeth to be a malady 
proceeding from some more inward, secret, and deeper cause; 
even so the variance between two brethren, when it ceaseth 
together with the deciding of a business, we must think de- 
pendeth upon the same business and upon nothing else, but if 
the difference remain still when the controversy is ended, surely 
then it was but a colourable pretence thereof, and there was 
within some root of secret malice which caused it. 

And here in this place it would serve our purpose very well to 
hear the manner of proceeding in the decision of a controversy 
between two brethren of a barbarous nation, and the same not 
for some little parcel of land, nor about poor slaves or silly 
sheep, but for no less than the kingdom of Persia: for after the 
death of Darius, some of the Persians would have had Ariamenes 
to succeed and wear the crown, as being the eldest son of the 
king late deceased ; others again stood earnestly for Xerxes, as 
well for that he had to his mother Atossa, the daughter of that 
great Cyrus, as because he was begotten by Darius when he was 
a crowned king. Ariamenes then came down out of Media to 
claim his right; not in arms, as one that minded to make war, 
but simply and peaceably, attended only with his ordinary train 
and retinue, minding to enter upon the kingdom by justice and 
order of law. Xerxes in the meanwhile, and before his brother 
came, being present in place, ruled as king and exercised all 
those functions that appertained thereto: his brother was no 
sooner arrived but he took willingly the diadem or royal frontlet 

234 Plutarch's Morals 

from his head, and the princely chaplet or coronet which the 
Persian kings are wont to wear upright, he laid down, and went 
toward his brother to meet him upon the way, and with kind 
greeting embraced him: he sent also certain presents unto him, 
with commandment unto those that carried them to say thus: 
Xerxes thy brother honoureth thee now with these presents 
here, but if by the sentence and judgment of the peers and lords 
of Persia he shall be declared king, his will and pleasure is, that 
thou shalt be the second person in the realm and next unto him. 
Ariamenes answered the message in this wise : These presents I 
receive kindly from my brother, but I am persuaded that the 
kingdom of Persia by right belongeth unto me; as for my 
brethren, I will reserve that honour which is meet and due unto 
them next after myself, and Xerxes shall be the first and chief 
of them all. Now when the great day of judgment was at hand 
when this weighty matter should be determined, the Persians 
by one general and common consent declared Artabanus, the 
brother of Darius late departed, to be the umpire and competent 
judge for to decide and end this cause. Xerxes was unwilling 
to stand unto his award, being but one man, as who reposed 
more trust and confidence in the number of the princes and 
nobles of the realm; but his mother Atossa reproving him for 
it: Tell me (quoth she), my son, wherefore refusest thou 
Artabanus to be thy judge, who is your uncle, and besides, the 
best man of all the Persians ? and why dost thou fear so much 
the issue of his judgment, considering that if thou miss, yet the 
second place is most honourable, namely, to be called the king's 
brother of Persia? Then Xerxes, persuaded by his mother, 
yielded; and after many allegations brought and pleaded on 
both sides judicially, Artabanus at length pronounced definitively 
that the kingdom of Persia appertained unto Xerxes : with that 
Ariamenes incontinently leapt from his seat, went and did 
homage unto his brother, and taking him by the right hand, 
enthronised and installed him king: from which time forward 
he was always the greatest person next unto his brother; and 
shewed himself so loving and affectionate unto him, that in his 
quarrel he fought most valiantly in the naval battle before 
Salaminas, where in his service and for his honour he lost his 
life. This example may serve for an original pattern of true 
benevolence and magnanimity, so pure and uncorrupt as it 
cannot in any one point be blamed or stained. 

As for Antiochus, as a man may reprehend in him his ambitious 
mind and excessive desire of rule; so he may as well wonder 

Of Brotherly Love or Amity 235 

that considering his vain-glorious spirit, all brotherly love was 
not in him utterly extinct; for being himself the younger, he 
waged war with Seleucus for the crown, and kept his mother 
sure enough for to side with him and take his part: now it 
happened that during this war and when it was at the hottest, 
Seleucus struck a battle with the Galatians, lost the field, and 
was himself not to be found, but supposed certainly to have been 
slain and cut in pieces, together with his whole army, which 
by the barbarians were put to the sword and massacred ; when 
news came unto Antiochus of this defeature, he laid away his 
purple robes, put on black, caused the court gates to be shut, 
and mourned heavily for his brother, as if he had been dead: 
but being afterwards advertised that he was alive, safe and 
sound, and that he went about to gather new forces and make 
head again, he came abroad, sacrificed with thanksgiving unto 
the gods, and commanded all those cities and states which were 
under his dominion to keep holiday, to sacrifice and wear chaplets 
of flowers upon their heads in token of public joy. The 
Athenians, when they had devised an absurd and ridiculous 
fable as touching the quarrel between Neptune and Minerva, 
intermeddled withal another invention, which soundeth to some 
reason, tending to the correction of the same, and as it were to 
make amends for that absurdity, for they suppress always the 
second of August, upon which day happened (by their saying) 
that debate aforesaid between Neptune and Minerva. 

What should let and hinder us likewise, if it chance that we 
enter into any quarrel or debate with our allies and kinsfolk in 
blood, to condemn that day to perpetual oblivion, and to repute 
and reckon it among the cursed and dismal days; but in no 
wise by occasion of one such unhappy day to forget so many 
other good and joyful days wherein we have lived and been 
brought up together; for either it is for nothing and in vain 
that nature hath endued us with meekness and harmless long- 
sufferance, or patience the daughter of modesty and mediocrity, 
or else surely we ought to use these virtues and good gifts of 
her principally to our allies and kinsfolk; and verily to crave 
and receive pardon of them when we ourselves have offended 
and done amiss, declareth no less love and natural affection 
than to forgive them if they have trespassed against us. And 
therefore we ought not to neglect them if they be angry and 
displeased ; nor to be strait-laced and stiffly stand against them 
when they come to justify or excuse themselves; but rather 
both when ourselves have faulted, oftentimes to prevent their 


Plutarch's Morals 

anger by excuse, making or asking forgiveness, and also by 
pardoning them before they come to excuse if we have been 
wronged by them. 

And therefore Euclides, that great scholar of Socrates, is 
much renowned and famous in all schools of philosophy, for that 
when he heard his brother break out into these beastly and 
wicked words against him, The foul ill take me if I be not 
revenged and meet with thee; and a mischief come to me also 
(quoth he again) if I appease not thine anger, and persuade 
thee to love me as well as ever thou didst. But King Eumenes 
not in word but in deed and effect surpassed all others in 
meekness and patience: for Perseus, king of the Macedonians, 
being his mortal enemy, had secretly addressed an ambush and 
set certain men of purpose to murder him about Delphos, espying 
their time when they saw him going from the seaside to the said 
town for to consult with the oracle of Apollo : now when he was 
gone a little past the ambush they began to assail him from 
behind, tumbling down and throwing mighty stones upon his 
head and neck, wherewith he was so astonished that his sight 
failed, and he fell withal, in that manner as he was taken for 
dead: now the rumour hereof ran into all parts, insomuch as 
certain of his servitors and friends made speed to the city 
Pergamus, reporting the tidings of this occurrent, as if they had 
been present and seen all done; whereupon Attalus, the eldest 
brother next unto himself, an honest and kind-hearted man, one 
also who always had carried himself most faithfully and loyally 
unto Eumenes, was not only declared king, and crowned with 
the royal diadem; but that which more is, espoused and 
married Queen Stratonice, his said brother's wife, and lay with 
her. But afterwards, when counter-news came that Eumenes 
was alive and coming homeward again, Attalus laid aside his 
diadem, and taking a partisan or javelin in his hand (as his 
manner beforetime was), with other pensioners and squires of 
the body he went to meet his brother: King Eumenes received 
him right graciously, took him lovingly by the hand, embraced 
the queen with all honour, and of a princely and magnanimous 
spirit put up all ; yea, and when he had lived a long time after 
without any complaint, suspicion, and jealousy at all, in the 
end at his death made over and assigned both the crown and 
the queen his wife unto his brother, the aforesaid Attalus: and 
what did Attalus now after his brother's decease? he would 
not foster and bring up (as heir apparent) so much as one child 
that he had by Stratonice his wife, although she bear unto him 

Of Brotherly Love or Amity 237 

many; but he nourished and carefully cherished the son of his 
brother departed, until he was come to full age, and then himself 
in his lifetime with his own hands set the imperial diadem and 
royal crown upon his head, and proclaimed him king. But 
Cambyses contrariwise, frighted upon a vain dream which he 
had, that his brother was come to usurp the kingdom of Asia, 
without expecting any proof or presumption thereof, put him 
to death for it; by occasion whereof, the succession in the 
empire went out of the race of Cyrus upon his decease, and was 
devolved upon the line of Darius, who reigned after him; a 
prince who knew how to communicate the government of his 
affairs and his regal authority, not only with his brethren, but 
also with his friends. 

Moreover, this one point more is to be remembered and 
observed diligently in all variances and debates that are risen 
between brethren: namely, then especially, and more than at 
any time else, to converse and keep company with their friends ; 
and on the other side to avoid their enemies and evil-willers, 
and not to be willing so much as to vouchsafe them any speech 
or entertainment. Following herein the fashion of the Candiots, 
who being oftentimes fallen out and in civil dissension among 
themselves, yea and warring hot one with another, no sooner 
hear news of foreign enemies coming against them, but they 
rank themselves, banding jointly together against them; and 
this combination is that which thereupon is called syncretesmos. 
For some there be that (like as water runneth always to the 
lower ground, and to places that chink or cleave asunder) are 
ready to side with those brethren or friends that be fallen out, 
and by their suggestions buzzed into their ears, ruinate and 
overthrow all acquaintance, kindred and amity, hating indeed 
both parties, but seeming to bear rather upon the weaker side, 
and to settle upon him who of imbecility soon yieldeth and 
giveth place. And verily those that be simple and harmless 
friends, such as commonly young folk are, apply themselves 
commonly to him that affecteth a brother, helping and increasing 
that love what he may; but the most malicious enemies are 
they who espying when one brother is angry or fallen out with 
another, seem to be angry and offended together with him for 
company; and these do most hurt of all others. Like as the 
hen therefore in ^Esop answered unto the cat, making sem- 
blance as though he heard her say she was sick, and therefore 
in kindness and love asking how she did? I am well enough 
(quoth she), I thank you, so that you were farther off; even so, 

2 3 8 

Plutarch's Morals 

unto such a man as is inquisitive and entereth into talk as 
touching the debate of brethren to sound and search into some 
secrets between them, one ought to answer thus: Surely there 
would be no quarrel between my brother and me if neither I 
nor he would give ear to carry- tales and pick-thanks between us. 
But now it cometh to pass (I wot not how), that when our 
eyes be sore and in pain, we turn away our sight unto those 
bodies and colours which make no reverberation or repercussion 
back again upon it; but when we have some complaint and 
quarrel, or conceive anger or suspicion against our brethren, 
we take pleasure to hear those that make all worse, and are apt 
enough to take any colour and infection, presented to us by 
them, where it were more needful and expedient at such a time 
to avoid their enemies and evil-willers, and to keep ourselves 
out of the way from them; and contrariwise to converse with 
their allies, familiars, and friends; and with them to bear 
company especially,, yea, and to enter into their own houses for 
to complain and blame them before their very wives, frankly 
and with liberty of speech. And yet it is a common saying, 
That brethren when they walk together should not so much as 
let a stone to be betwixt them; nay, they are discontented and 
displeased in mind, in case a dog chance to run overthwart them ; 
and a number of such other things they fear, whereof there 
is not one able to make any breach or division between brethren; 
but in the meanwhile they perceive not how they receive into 
the midst of them, and suffer to traverse and cross them, men 
of a currish and dogged nature, who can do nothing else but 
bark between, and sow false rumours and calumniations between 
one and another, for to provoke them to jar and fall together 
by the ears : and therefore to great reason and very well to this 
purpose said Theophrastus ; That if all things (according to the 
old proverb) should be common among friends, then most of 
all they ought to entertain friends in common; for private 
familiarities and acquaintances apart one from another are 
great means to disjoin and turn away their hearts; for if they 
fall to love others, and make choice of other familiar friends, it 
must needs follow by consequence to take pleasure and delight 
in other companies, to esteem and affect others, yea, and to 
suffer themselves to be ruled and led by others. For friendships 
and amities frame the natures and dispositions of men; neither 
is there a more certain and assured sign of different humours 
and divers natures than the choice and election of different 
friends, in such sort as neither to eat and drink, nor to play, nor 

Of Brotherly Love or Amity 239 

to pass and spend whole days together in good fellowship and 
company, is so effectual to hold and maintain the concord and 
goodwill of brethren, as to hate and love the same persons; to 
joy in the same acquaintance: and contrariwise to abhor and 
shun the same company; for when brethren have friends 
common between them, the said friends will never suffer any 
surmises, calumniations and quarrels to grow between; and 
say that peradventure there do arise some sudden heat of choler 
or grudging fit of complaint, presently it is cooled, quenched 
and suppressed by the mediation of common friends; for ready 
they will be to take up the quarrel and scatter it so as it shall 
vanish away to nothing if they be indifferently affectionate to 
them both, and that their love incline no more to the one side 
than to the other: for like as tin-solder doth knit and rejoin 
a crackt piece of brass, in touching and taking hold of both sides 
and edges of the broken pieces, for that it agreeth and sorteth 
as well to the one as to the other, and suffereth from them both 
alike; even so ought a friend to be fitted and suitable indif- 
ferently unto both brethren, if he would knit surely, and confirm 
strongly their mutual benevolence and goodwill. But such as 
are unequal and cannot intermeddle and go between the one 
as well as the other, make a separation and disjunction, and not 
a sound joint, like as certain notes or discords in music. And 
therefore it may well be doubted and question made whether 
Hesiodus did well or no when he said : 

Make not a feere I thee advise 
Thy brother's peer in any wise. 

For a discreet and sober companion common to both (as I said) 
before, or rather incorporate (as it were) into them, shall ever 
be a sure knot to fasten brotherly love. But Hesiodus (as it 
should seem) meant and feared this in the ordinary and vulgar 
sort of men, who are many of them naught, by reason that so 
customably they be given to jealousy and suspicion, yea and 
to self-love, which if we consider and observe, it is well; but 
with this regard always, that although a man yield equal good- 
will unto a friend as unto a brother, yet nevertheless in case of 
concurrence, he ought to reserve ever the pre-eminence and 
first place for his brother, whether it be in preferring him in 
any election of magistrates, or to the managing of state affairs ; 
or in bidding and inviting him to a solemn feast, or public 
assembly to consult and debate of weighty causes; or in 
recommending him to princes and great lords. For in such 

240 Plutarch's Morals 

cases, which in the common opinion of the world are reputed 
matters of honour and credit, a man ought to render the dignity, 
honour, and reward which is beseeming and due to blood by the 
course of nature. For in these things the advantage and pre- 
rogative will not purchase so much glory and reputation to a 
friend, as the repulse and putting-by bring disgrace, discredit, 
and dishonour unto a brother. 

Well, as touching this old said saw and sentence of Hesiodus, 
I have treated more at large elsewhere; but the sententious 
saying of Menander full wisely set down in these words : 

No man who loves another shall you see 
Well pleas' d, himself neglected for to be, 

putteth us in mind and teacheth us to have good regard and 
care of our brethren, and not to presume so much upon the 
obligation of nature, as to despise them. For the horse is a 
beast by nature loving to a man, and the dog loves his master; 
but in case you never think upon them nor see unto them (as 
you ought), they will forego that kind affection, estrange them- 
selves and take no knowledge of you. The body also is most 
nearly knit and united to the soul by the greatest bond of 
nature that can be; but in case it be neglected and contemned 
by her, or not cherished so tenderly as it looketh to be, 
unwilling shall you see it to help and assist her, nay, full 
untowardly will it execute, or rather give over it will 
altogether every action. Now to come more near and to 
particularise upon this point, honest and good is that care 
and diligence which is employed and shewed to thy brethren 
themselves alone; but better it would be far if thy love and 
kind affections be extended as far as to their wives' fathers and 
daughters' husbands, by carrying a friendly mind and ready 
will to pleasure them likewise, and to do for them in all their 
occasions; if they be courteous and affable in saluting their 
servants, such especially as they love and favour; thankful and 
beholding to their physicians who had them in cure during sick- 
ness and were diligent about them; acknowledging themselves 
bound unto their faithful and trusty friends, or to such as were 
willing and forward to take such part as they did in any long 
voyage and expedition, or to bear them company in warfare. 
And as for the wedded wife of a brother whom he is to reverence, 
repute and honour no less than a most sacred and holy relique 
or monument, if at any time he happen to see her, it will become 
him to speak all honour and good of her husband before her; or 

Of Brotherly Love or Amity 241 

to be offended and complain (as well as she) of her husband, if 
he set not that store by her as he ought, and when she is angered 
to appease and still her. Say also that she have done some 
light fault and offended her husband, to reconcile him again 
unto her and entreat him to be content and to pardon her; and 
likewise if there be some particular and private cause of dif- 
ference between him and his brother, to acquaint the wife 
therewith, and by her means to complain thereof, that she may 
take up the matter by composition and end the quarrel. 

Lives thy brother a bachelor and hath no children? thou 
oughtest in good earnest to be angry with him for it, to solicit 
him to marriage, yea with chiding, rating and by all means urge 
him to leave this single life, and by entering into wedlock to 
be linked in lawful alliance and affinity : hath he children ? then 
you are to shew your goodwill and affection more manifestly, 
as well toward him as his wife, in honouring him more than ever 
before, in loving his children as if they were your own, yea, and 
shewing yourself more indulgent, kind, and affable unto them; 
that if it chance they do faults and shrewd turns (as little ones 
are wont), they run not away, nor retire into some blind and 
solitary corner for fear of father and mother, or by that means 
light into some light, unhappy, and ungracious company, but 
may have recourse and refuge unto their uncle, where they 
may be admonished lovingly, and find an intercessor to make 
their excuse and get their pardon. Thus Plato reclaimed his 
brother's son or nephew Speusippus from his loose life and 
dissolute riot, without doing any harm or giving him foul words, 
but by winning him with fair and gentle language (whereas his 
father and mother did nothing but rate and cry out upon him 
continually, which caused him to run away and keep out of 
their sight) he imprinted in his heart a great reverence of him, 
and a fervent zeal to imitate him, and to set his mind to the 
study of philosophy, notwithstanding many of his friends 
thought hardly of him and blamed him not a little, for that he 
took not another course with the untoward youth, namely, to 
rebuke, check, and chastise him sharply: but this was evermore 
his answer unto them: That he reproved and took him down 
sufficiently by shewing unto him by his own life and carriage 
what difference there was between vice and virtue, between 
things honest and dishonest. 

Alenas, sometime king of Thessaly, was hardly used and 
overawed by his father, for that he was insolent, proud, and 

242 Plutarch's Morals 

violent withal; but contrariwise, his uncle by the father's side 
would give him entertainment, bear him out, and make much 
of him: Now when upon a time the Thessalians sent unto 
Delphos certain lots, to know by the oracle of god Apollo who 
should be their king? the foresaid uncle of Alenas unwitting to 
his brother put in one for him: Then Pythia the prophetess 
gave answer from Apollo and pronounced that Alenas should 
be king: The father of Alenas denied, and said that he had 
cast in no lot for him; and it seemed unto every man that there 
was some error in writing of those bills or names for the lottery: 
whereupon new messengers were dispatched to the oracle for 
to clear this doubt; and then Pythia, in confirmation of the 
former choice, answered: 

I mean that youth with reddish hair, 
Whom dame Archedice in womb did bear. 

Thus Alenas, declared and elected king of Thessaly, by the 
oracle of Apollo, and by the means withal of his father's brother, 
both proved himself afterward a most noble prince, excelling 
all his progenitors and predecessors, and also raised the whole 
nation and his country a great name and mighty puissance. 

Furthermore, it is seemly and convenient by joying and taking 
a glory in the advancement, prosperity, honours and dignities 
of brothers' children, to augment the same, and to encourage 
and animate them to virtue, and when they do well, to praise 
them to the full. Haply it might be thought an odious and 
unseemly thing for a man to commend much his own son, but 
surely to praise a brother's son is an honourable thing, and 
since it proceedeth not from the love of a man's self, it cannot 
be thought but right, honest, and (in truth) divine: 1 for surely 
methinks the very name itself (of uncle) is sufficient to draw 
brethren to affect and love dearly one another, and so con- 
sequently their nephews: and thus we ought to propose unto 
ourselves for to imitate the better sort and such as have been 
immortalised and deified in times past: for so Hercules, not- 
withstanding he had seventy sons within twain of his own, yet 
he loved Iolaus, his brother's son, no less than any of them; 
insomuch as even at this day in most places there is but one 
altar erected for him and his said nephew together, and men 
pray jointly unto Hercules and Iolaus. Also, when his brother 
Iphiclus was slain in that famous battle which was fought near 
3 detos signifieth divine and an uncle. 

Of Brotherly Love or Amity 243 

Lacedsemon, he was so exceedingly displeased, and took such 
indignation thereat, that he departed out of Peloponnesus and 
left the whole country. As for Leucothea, when her sister was 
dead, she nourished and brought up her child, and together 
with her, ranged it among the heavenly saints : whereupon the 
Roman dames even at this day, when they celebrate the feast of 
Leucothea (whom they name Matuta) carry in their arms and 
cherish tenderly their sisters' children, and not their own. 



[That which is commonly said, All extremities be naught, requireth 
otherwhiles an exposition, and namely, in that virtue which we call 
temperance, one of the kinds or branches whereof consisteth in the 
right use of the tongue, which is as much to say, as the skill and 
knowledge how to speak as it becometh: now the moderation of 
speech hath for the two extremes, Silence (a thing more often praise- 
worthy than reproachable) and Babble; against which this discourse 
is addressed. Considering, then, that silence is an assured reward 
unto wise men, and opposite directly unto much prattling, and 
comely and seemly speech is in the midst, we call not silence a vice, 
but say, that a man never findeth harm by holding his peace. But 
as touching garrulity or intemperate speech, the author sheweth in 
the very beginning of his treatise that it is a malady incurable and 
against nature; for it doth frustrate the talkative person of his 
greatest desire, to wit, for to have audience and credit given him; 
also that it maketh a man inconsiderate, importune, and malapert, 
ridiculous, mocked and hated, plunging him ordinarily into danger, 
as many events have proved by experience. For to discover this 
matter the better, he saith consequently : That the nature of virtuous 
men and those who have noble bringing up, is directly opposite 
unto that of long-tongued persons ; and joining the reasons by which 
a man ought not to bewray his secret, together with those evils and 
inconveniences which curiosity and much babble do bring, and 
confirming all by fine similitudes and notable examples : afterwards, 
taking in hand again his former speech and argument, he compareth 
a traitor and busy talker together, to the end that all men should 
so much the rather detest the vice of garrulity : then he proceedeth 
immediately to discover and apply the remedies of this mischief, 
willing us in the first place and generally to consider the calamities 
and miseries that much babbling causeth; as also the good and 
commodity which proceedeth of silence: which done he discourseth 
of those particular remedies, which import thus much in effect: 
That a man ought to frame and accustom himself, either to be 
silent, or else to speak last; to avoid all hastiness in making his 
answer; to say nothing, but that which is either needful or civil; 
to shun and forbear those discourses which please us most, and 
wherein we may be soon overseen and proceed too far; to find 
busy praters occupied apart from them; to provide them the com- 
pany of men who are of authority and aged; In sum, to consider 
whether that which a man hath said, be convenient, meet, and 
profitable, and nevertheless to think always of this: That other- 
whiles a man may repent of some words spoken, but never of keeping 


Intemperate Speech or Garrulity 245 

A very hard and troublesome cure it is that philosophy hath 
undertaken, namely, to heal the disease of much prating; for 
that the medicine and remedy which she useth be words that 
must be received by hearing; and these great talkers will abide 
to hear no man, for that they have all the words themselves, and 
talk continually; so that the first mischief of those who cannot 
hold their tongue and keep silence is this; That they neither 
can nor will give ear to another; insomuch as it is a wilful kind 
of deafness in men, who seem thereby to control nature and 
complain of her, in that where she hath allowed them two ears, 
she hath given them but one tongue. If then Euripides said 
very well unto a foolish auditor of his: 

Pour I wise words, and counsel what I can 
With all my skill, into a sottish man, 
Unneth shall I be able him to fill, 
If hold and keep the same he never will, 

a man may more truly and justly say unto (or rather of) a 
prating fellow: 

Pour I wise words, and counsel what I can 
With all my skill unto a sottish man, 
Unneth I shall be able him to fill, 
In case receive the same he never will. 

And in truth, more properly it may be said : That one poureth 
good advertisements about such an one and beside him rather, 
than into him, so long as he either speaketh unto him that 
listeneth not, or giveth no ear unto them that speak: for if a 
prattling fellow chance to hear some short and little tale, such is 
the nature of this disease called garrulity, that his hearing is 
but a kind of taking his wind new, to babble it forth again 
immediately, much more than it was, or like a whirlpool which 
whatsoever it taketh once, the same it sendeth up again very 
often with the vantage. 

Within the city Olympia there was a porch or gallery called 
Heptaphonos, for that from one voice by sundry reflections and 
reverberations it rendered seven echoes: but if some speech 
come to the ears of a babbler, and enter never so little in, by 
and by it resoundeth again on every side, 

And stirs the strings of secret heart within, 
Which should lie still, and not be mov'd therein, 

insomuch, as a man may well say: That the conducts and 
passages of their hearing reach not to the brain where their 
soul and mind is seated, but only to their tongue: by reason 
whereof, whereas in others the words that be heard do rest in 

246 Plutarch's Morals 

their understanding, in prattlers they void away and run out 
presently, and afterwards they go up and down like empty 
vessels, void of sense and full of sound. 

Well, as incurable as such seem to be, yet if it may be thought 
available to leave no experiment untried for to do such good, 
we may begin our cure, and say thus unto a busy prattler: 

Peace, my good son, for taciturnity 
Brings aye with it much good commodity. 

But among the rest these be the two chief and principal, namely: 
to hear and to be heard; of which twain our importunate 
talkers can attain neither the one nor the other, so unhappy 
they are as to be frustrate of that which they so much desire. 
As for other passions and maladies of the soul, namely, avarice, 
ambition, love, and voluptuousness, they do all of them in some 
sort enjoy their desire; but the thing that troubleth and tor- 
menteth these babbling fellows most is this: That seeking for 
audience so much as they do, and nothing more, they can never 
meet with it, but every man shunneth their company, and flieth 
away as fast as his legs will carry him ; for whether men be set 
together in a knot, sadly talking in their round chairs, or walking 
in company, let them espy one of these prattlers coming toward 
them, away they go every one, that a man would say the 
retreat were sounded, so quickly they retire. And like as when 
in some assembly, if all be hushed on a sudden so as there is not 
a word, we use to say that Mercury is come among them ; even 
so when a prating fool entereth into a place where friends are 
either set at the board to make merry, or otherwise met together 
in counsel, every man straightways is silent and holdeth his 
peace, as being unwilling to minister occasion unto him of talk ; 
but if himself begin first to open his lips, up they rise all and 
are soon gone, as mariners suspecting and doubting by the 
whistling northern wind from the top of craggy rocks and 
promontories, some rough sea, and fearing to be stomach-sick, 
retire betimes into a bay for harbour: whereby it cometh to 
pass also, that neither at a supper can he meet with guests 
willing to eat and drink with him, nor yet companions to lodge 
with him, either in journey by land, or voyage by sea, unless it 
be by constraint. For so importunate he is always that one 
while he is ready to hang upon a man's cloak wheresoever he 
goes, another while he takes hold on the side of his beard, as if 
he knocked at the door with his hand to force him to speak; in 
which case well fare a good pair of legs, for they are worth 

Intemperate Speech or Garrulity 247 

much money at such a time; as Archilochus was wont to say, 
yea, and Aristotle also, that wise philosopher: for when upon 
a time he was much troubled with one of these busy praters, 
who haunted and wearied him out of measure with cavilling 
tales and many foolish and absurd discourses, iterating eftsoons 
these words; And is not this a wonderful thing, Aristotle? No, 
iwis (quoth he again), but this were a wonder rather, if a man 
that hath feet of his own should stand still and abide to hear 
you thus prate. Unto another also of the same stamp, who 
after much prittle-prattle and a long discourse, said thus unto 
him: I doubt I have been tedious unto you, philosopher, with 
my many words ; No, in good sooth (quoth Aristotle unto him), 
for I gave no ear at all unto you. For if otherwhiles men cannot 
shake such praters off, but must of necessity let their tongues 
walk, this benefit he hath by the soul, that she retire th inwardly 
all the while lending the outward ears only for them to beat upon, 
and dash as it were all about with their jangling bibble-babble ; 
for she in the meantime is otherwise occupied, and discourseth 
to herself of divers matters within; by which means such 
fellows can meet with no hearers that take heed what they say, 
or believe their words. For as it is generally held, that the 
natural seed of such as are lecherous and much given to the 
company of women is unfruitful and of no force to engender; 
even so the talk of these great praters is vain, barren, and alto- 
gether fruitless. And yet there is no part or member of our 
body that nature hath so surely defended (as it were) with a 
strong rampart as the tongue: for before it she hath set a 
palisado of sharp teeth, to the end that if peradventure it will 
not obey reason, which within holdeth it hard as with a strait 
bridle, but it will blatter out and not tarry within, we might bite 
it until it bleed again, and so restrain the intemperance thereof. 
For Euripides said not that houses unbolted, 

But tongues and mouths unbridled if they be 
Shall find in th' end mishap and misery. 

And those in my conceit who say that housen without doors, 
and purses without strings, serve their masters in no stead, 
and yet in the meantime neither set hatch nor lock unto their 
mouths, but suffer them run out and overflow continually, like 
unto the mouth of the sea Pontus, these, I say, in mine opinion 
seem to make no other account of words than of the basest thing 
in the world; whereby they are never believed (say what they 
will), and yet this is the proper end and scope that all speech 

2 4 8 

Plutarch's Morals 

tendeth to, namely, to win credit with the hearers; and no 
man will ever believe these great talkers, no not when they 
speak the truth. For like as wheat, if it be enclosed within 
some dank or moist vessel, doth swell and yield more in measure, 
but for use is found to be worse ; even so it is with the talk of 
a prattling person ; well may he multiply and augment it with 
lying, but by that means it leeseth all the force of persuasion. 
Moreover, what modest, civil, and honest man is there who 
would not very carefully take heed of drunkenness? for anger 
(as some say) may well be ranged with rage and madness ; and 
drunkenness doth lodge and dwell with her, or rather is madness 
itself, 1 only in circumstance of time it may be counted less, for 
that it continueth less while, but surely in regard of the cause 
it is greater, for that it is voluntary, and we run wilfully into it, 
and without any constraint. Now there is no one thing for 
which drunkenness is so much blamed and accused as for intem- 
perate speech and talk without end : for as the poet saith : 

Wine makes a man who is both wise and grave 
To sing and chant, to laugh full wantonly, 
It causeth him to dance, and eke to rave, 
And many things to do undecently; 

for the greatest and worst matter that ensueth thereupon is not 
singing, laughing, and dancing; there is another inconvenience 
in comparison whereof all these are nothing, and that is : 

To blurt abroad, and those words to reveal, 
Which better were within for to conceal. 

This is (I say) the mischief most dangerous of all the rest: and 
it may be that the poet covertly would assoil that question 
which the philosophers have propounded and disputed upon; 
namely, what difference there might be between liberal drinking 
of wine and stark drunkenness ? in attributing unto the former 
mirth and jocundness extraordinary, and to the latter much 
babbling and foolish prattle: for according to the common 
proverb, that which is seated in the heart and thought of a 
sober person, lieth aloft in the mouth and tongue of a drunkard. 
And therefore wisely answered the philosopher Bias unto one 
of these jangling and prating companions: for when he seemed 
to mock him for sitting still, and saying nothing at a feast, 
insomuch as he gave him the lob and fool for it: And how is it 
possible (quoth he) that a fool should hold his peace at the 

1 Ira furor brevis est. 

Intemperate Speech or Garrulity 249 

There was upon a time a citizen of Athens who feasted the 

ambassadors of the king of Persia, and for that he perceived that 

these great lords would take delight in the company of learned 

men and philosophers, upon a brave mind that he carried, 

invited they were all and met there together: now when all the 

rest began to discourse in general, and every man seemed to put 

in some vie for himself, and to hold and maintain one theme 

or other, Zeno, who sat among them, was only silent and spake 

not a word; whereupon the said ambassadors and strangers 

of Persia began to be merry with him and to drink unto him 

round, saying in the end: And what shall we report of you, Sir 

Zeno, unto the king our master? Marry (quoth he), no more 

but this, that there is an ancient man at Athens who can sit 

at the board and say nothing. Thus you see that silence 

argueth deep and profound wisdom; it implieth sobriety, and 

is a mystical secret and divine virtue; whereas drunkenness is 

talkative, full of words, void of sense and reason; and indeed 

thereupon multiplieth so many words, and is ever jangling. 

And in truth the philosophers themselves when they define 

drunkenness say: That it is a kind of raving and speaking 

idly at the table upon drinking too much wine; whereby it is 

evident that they do not simply condemn drinking, so that a 

man keep himself within the bounds of modesty and silence; 

but it is excessive and foolish talk, that of drinking wine maketh 

drunkenness. Thus the drunkard raveth and talketh idly when 

he is cup-shotten at the board ; but the prattler and man of many 

words doth it always and in every place, in the market and common 

hall, at the theatre, in the public galleries and walking-places, 

by day and by night. If he be a physician and visit his patient, 

certes he is more grievous, and doth more hurt in his cure than 

the malady itself; if he be a passenger with others in a ship, all 

the company had rather be sea-sick than hear him prate; if he 

set to praise thee, thou wert better to be dispraised by another; 

and in a word, a man shall have more pleasure and delight 

to converse and commune with lewd persons so they be discreet 

in their speech, than with others that be busy talkers, though 

otherwise they be good honest men. True it is indeed that old 

Nestor, in a tragedy of Sophocles, speaking unto Ajax (who 

overshot himself in some hot and hasty words), for to appease 

and pacify him, saith thus after a mild and gracious manner: 

I blame not you, Sir Ajax, for your speech, 
Naught though it be, your deeds are nothing leech. 

But surely we are not so well affected unto a vain-prating fellow; 

250 Plutarch's Morals 

for his importunate and unseasonable words mar all his good 
works, and make them to lose their grace. Lysias upon a time, 
at the request of one who had a cause to plead unto at the 
bar, penned an oration for his purpose and gave it him. The 
party after he had read and read it over again, came unto Lysias 
heavy and ill-apaid, saying; The first time that I perused 
your oration methought it was excellently well written, and I 
wondered at it; but when I took it a second and third time in 
hand, it seemed very simply indited and carried no forcible 
and effectual style with it: Why (quoth Lysias, and smiled 
withal), know you not that you are to pronounce it but once 
before the judges? and yet see and mark withal the persuasive 
eloquence and sweet grace that is in the writing of Lysias, for 
I may be bold to say and affirm of him, that 

The Muses with their broided violet hair, 
Grac'd him with favour much and beauty fair. 

And among those singular commendations that are given out of 
any poet, most true it is that Homer is he alone of all that 
ever were who overcame all satiety of the reader; seeming ever- 
more new and fresh, flourishing always in the prime of lovely 
grace, and appearing young still and amiable to win favour; 
howbeit in speaking and professing thus much of himself: 

It grieves me much for to rehearse again 
A tale that once delivered hath been plain, 

he sheweth sufficiently that he avoideth what he can, and 
feareth that tedious satiety which followeth hard at heels, and 
layeth wait (as it were) unto all long trains of speech; in which 
regard he leadeth the reader and hearer of his poems from one 
discourse and narration to another, and evermore with novelties 
doth so refresh and recreate him, that he thinketh he hath 
never enough; whereas our long-tongued chatterers do after a 
sort wound and weary the ears of their hearers by their tauto- 
logies and vain repetitions of the same thing as they that soil 
and slourry writing-tables when they be fair scoured and 
cleansed : and therefore let us set this first and foremost before 
their eyes, that like as they who force men to drink wine out of 
measure and undelayed with water, are the cause that the good 
blessing which was given us to rejoice our hearts and make us 
pleasant and merry, driveth some into sadness, and others into 
drunkenness and violence; even so, they that beyond all reason 
and to no purpose use their speech (which is a thing otherwise 
counted the most delightsome and amiable means of conference 

Intemperate Speech or Garrulity 251 

and society that men have together) cause it to be inhuman 
and unsociable, displeasing those whom they thought to please, 
making them to be mocked at their hands, of whom they looked 
to be well esteemed, and to have their evil will and displeasure, 
whose love and amity they made reckoning of. And even as 
he by good right may be esteemed uncourteous and altogether 
uncivil, who with the girdle and tissue of Venus, wherein are all 
sorts of kind and amiable allurements, should repel and drive 
from him as many as desire his company; so he that with his 
speech maketh others heavy and himself hateful, may well be 
held and reputed for a graceless man and of no bringing up 
in the world. 

As for other passions and maladies of the mind, some are 
dangerous, others odious, and some again ridiculous and exposed 
to mockery; but garrulity is subject unto all these incon- 
veniences at once. For such folk as are noted for their lavish 
tongue are a mere laughing-stock, and in every common and 
ordinary report of theirs, they minister occasion of laughter; 
hated they be for their relation of ill news, and in danger they 
are because they cannot conceal and keep close their own secrets : 
hereupon Anacharsis being invited one day and feasted by 
Solon, was reputed wise, for that being asleep he was found and 
seen holding his right hand to his mouth, and his left upon his 
privities and natural parts: for good reason he had to think 
that the tongue required and needed the stronger bridle and 
bit to restrain it: and in very truth it were a hard matter to 
reckon so many persons undone and overthrown by their intem- 
perate and loose life, as there have been cities and mighty states 
ruinated and subverted utterly by the revealing and opening of 
some secrets. 

It fortuned that whiles Sylla did inleaguer before the city of 
Athens, and had not leisure to stay there long and continue the 
siege, by reason of other affairs and troubles pressed him sore, 
for of one side King Mithridates invaded and harried Asia, and 
on the other side the faction of Marius gathered strength; and 
having gotten head, prevailed much within Rome: certain old 
fellows being met in a barber's shop within the city of Athens, 
who were blabs of their tongues, clattered it out in their talk 
together that a certain quarter of the city named Heptacalchon 
was not sufficiently guarded, and therefore the town in danger 
to be surprised by that part; which talk of theirs was overheard 
by certain spies, who advertised Sylla so much; whereupon 
immediately he brought all his forces to that side, and about 

252 Plutarch's Morals 

midnight gave an hot assault, made entry, and went within a 
very little of forcing the city and being master of it all, for he 
filled the whole street called Ceramicum with slaughter and 
dead carcases, insomuch as the channels ran down with blood. 
Now was he cruelly bent against the Athenians more for their 
hard language which they gave him than for any offence or 
injury otherwise that they did unto him, for they had flouted 
and mocked Sylla, together with his wife Metella; and for that 
purpose they would get upon the walls and say; Sylla is a 
sycamore or mulberry, bestrewed all over with dusty meal; 
besides many other such foolish jibes and taunts; and so for the 
lightest thing in the world (as Plato saith), to wit, words which 
are but wind, they brought upon their heads a most heavy and 
grievous penalty. The garrulity and over-much talk of one 
man was the only hindrance that the city of Rome was not set 
free and delivered from the tyranny of Nero. For there was 
but one night between the time that Nero should have been 
murthered on the morrow, and all things were ready and 
prepared for the purpose: but he who had undertaken the 
execution of that feat, as he went toward the theatre, espied 
one of those persons who were condemned to die, bound, and 
pinioned at the prison door, and ready to be led and brought 
before Nero; who hearing him to make piteous moan and 
lamenting his miserable fortune, steps to him and rounding 
him softly in the ear: Pray to God, poor man (quoth he), that 
this one day may pass over thy head, and that thou die not 
to-day, for to-morrow thou shalt con me thanks. The poor 
prisoner, taking hold presently of this enigmatical and dark 
speech, and thinking (as I suppose) that one bird in hand is 
better than two in bush, and according to the common saying, 

A fool is he who leaving that 

Which ready is and sure, 
Doth follow after things that be 

Unready and unsure, 

made choice of saving his life by the surer way, rather than by 
the juster means; for he discovered unto Nero that which the 
man had whispered secretly unto him: whereupon presently 
the party was apprehended and carried away to the place of 
torture, where by racking, scorching, and scourging, he was 
urged, miserable wretch, to confess and speak out that perforce 
which of himself he had revealed without any constraint at all. 
Zeno the philosopher, fearing that when his body was put to 

Intemperate Speech or Garrulity 253 

dolorous and horrible torments, he should be forced even 
against his will to bewray and disclose some secret plot, bit 
off his tongue with his own teeth and spit it in the tyrant's 

Notable is the example of Leaena, and the reward which she 
had for containing and ruling her tongue is singular. An harlot 
she was and very familiar with Harmodius and Aristogiton; 
by means of which inward acquaintance, privy she was and 
party as far forth as a woman might be to that conspiracy which 
they had complotted against the usurping tyrants of Athens, 
and the hopes that they builded upon (drunk she had out of 
that fair cup of love, and thereby vowed never to reveal the 
secrets of god Cupid). Now after that these two paramours 
and lovers of hers had failed of their enterprise and were put 
to death, she was called into question and put to torture, and 
therewith commanded to declare the rest of the complices in that 
conspiracy, who as yet were unknown and not brought to light: 
but so constant and resolute she was that she would not detect 
so much as one, but endured all pains and extremities what- 
soever; whereby she shewed that those two young gentlemen 
had done nothing unfitting their persons and nobility in making 
choice to be enamoured of her. In regard of which rare secrecy 
of hers the Athenians caused a lioness to be made of brass 
without a tongue, and the same in memorial of her to be erected 
and set up at the very gate and entry of their citadel; giving 
posterity to understand by the generosity of that beast what 
an undaunted and invincible heart she had; and likewise of 
what taciturnity and trust in keeping secrets, by making it 
tongueless: and to say a truth, never any word spoken served 
to so good stead as many concealed and held in have profited. 
For why? A man may one time or other utter that which he 
once kept in; but being spoken, it cannot possibly be recalled 
and unsaid, for out it is gone already and spread abroad sundry 
ways. And hereupon it is (I suppose) that we have men to 
teach us for to speak, but we learn of the gods to hold our 
peace. For in sacrifices, religious mysteries, and ceremonies of 
divine service we receive by tradition a custom to keep silence. 
And even so, the poet Homer feigned Ulysses (whose eloquence 
otherwise was so sweet) to be of all men most silent and of 
fewest words; his son likewise, his wife and nurse, whom you 
may hear thus speaking: 

As soon shall stock of sturdy oak it tell, 
Or iron so strong as I will it reveal. 

254 Plutarch's Morals 

And Ulysses himself, sitting by Penelope before he would be 
known unto her who he was: 

Griev'd in his mind, and pitied to behold 
His wife by tears to shew what heart did feel, 
But all the while his eyes he stiff did hold, 
Which stirr'd no more than horn or sturdy steel ; 

so full was his tongue of patience, and his lips of continence. 
For why? reason had all the parts of his body so obeisant and 
ready at command, that it gave order to the eyes not to shed 
tears; to the tongue not to utter a word; to the heart not to 
pant or tremble, nor so much as to sob or sigh : 

Thus unto reason obeisant was his heart, 
Persuaded all to take in better part ; 

yea, his reason had gotten the mastery of those inward and 
secret motions which are void and incapable of reason, as having 
under her hand the very blood and vital spirits in all obeisance : 
his people also and train about him were for the most part of 
that disposition; for what wanted this of constancy and loyalty 
to their lord in the highest degree, to suffer themselves to be 
pulled and haled, to be tugged and tossed, yea and dashed 
against the hard ground under foot by the giant Cyclops, rather 
than to utter one word against Ulysses, or to bewray that log 
of wood which was burnt at the one end, and an instrument 
made ready for to put out his only eye that he had ? nay, they 
endured rather to be eaten and devoured raw by him, than to 
disclose any of Ulysses his secrets. Pittacus therefore did not 
amiss, who when the King of Egypt had sent unto him a beast 
for sacrifice, and willed him withal to take out and lay apart 
the best and worst piece thereof, plucked out the tongue and 
sent it unto him, as being the organ of many good things, and 
no less instrument of the worst that be in the world. And 
Lady Ino, in Euripides, speaking freely of herself, saith that 
she knew the time 

When that she ought her tongue to hold, 
And when to speak she might be bold. 

For certainly those who have had noble and princely bringing 
up indeed, learn first to keep silence, and afterwards how to 
speak. And therefore King Antigonus the Great, when his son 
upon a time asked him, When they should dislodge and break 
up the camp: What, son (quoth he), art thou alone afraid, that 
when the time comes thou shalt not hear the trumpet sound 

Intemperate Speech or Garrulity 255 

the remove? Lo, how he would not trust him with a word of 
secrecy, unto whom he was to leave his kingdom in succession t 
teaching him thereby that he also another day should in such 
cases be wary and spare his speech. Old Metellus likewise, being 
asked such another secret as touching the army and setting 
forward of some expedition : If I wist (quoth he) that my shirt 
which is next my skin knew this my inward intent and secret 
purpose, I would put it off and fling it into the fire. King 
Eumenes, being advertised that Craterus was coming against 
him with his forces, kept it to himself, and would not acquaint 
any of his nearest friends therewith, but made semblance and 
gave it out (though untruly) that it was Neoptolemus who had 
the leading of that power; for him did his soldiers contemn and 
make no reckoning of, whereas the glory and renown of Craterus 
they had in admiration, and loved his virtue and valour: now 
when no man else but himself knew of Craterus his being in 
the field, they gave him battle, vanquished him, slew him before 
they were aware, neither took they knowledge of him before 
they found him dead on the ground. 

See how by a stratagem of secrecy and silence the victory was 
achieved, only by concealing so hardy and terrible an enemy; 
insomuch as his very friends about him admired more his 
wisdom in keeping this secret from them, than complained of 
his diffidence and distrust of them. And say that a man should 
complain of thee in such a case, better it were yet to be chal- 
lenged and blamed for distrusting, all the while thou remainest 
safe and obtain a victory by that means, than to be justly 
accused after an overthrow, for being so open and trusting so 
easily. Moreover, how darest thou confidently and boldly blame 
and reprove another for not keeping that secret which thou 
thyself hast revealed? for if it was behoveful and expedient 
that it should not be known, why hast thou told it to another? 
but in case when thou hast let fly a secret from thyself unto a 
man, thou wouldest have him to hold it in, and not blurt it out, 
surely it cannot be but thou hast better confidence in another 
than thyself: now if he be like thyself, who will pity thee if thou 
come by a mischief? is he better, and so by that means saveth 
thee harmless beyond all reason and ordinary course ? then hast 
thou met with one more faithful to thee than thou art thyself: 
but haply thou wilt say: He is my very friend; so hath he 
another friend (be sure) whom he will do as much for, and disclose 
the same secret unto, and that friend (no doubt) hath another. 
Thus one word will get more still, it will grow and multiply by 


Plutarch's Morals 

a suit and sequence linked and hanging to an intemperate 
tongue: for like as unity, so long as she passeth not her bounds, 
but continueth and remaineth still in herself, is one and no more, 
in which respect she is called in Greek, monas, that is to say, 
alone; whereas the number of twain is the beginning of a 
diversity (as it were) and difference, and therefore indefinite; 
for straightways is unity passed forth of itself by doubling, and 
so turneth to a plurality; even so a word or speech all the while 
it abideth enclosed in him who first knew it, is truly and properly 
called a secret, but after it is once gotten forth and set a-going, 
so that it is come unto another, it beginneth to take the name 
of a common bruit and rumour: for as the poet very well 
saith; Words have wings. A bird, if she be let fly once out 
of our hands, it is much ado to catch again, and even so, 
when a word hath passed out of a man's mouth, hardly or 
unneth may we withhold or recover; for it flieth amain, 
it flappeth her light wings, fetching many a round compass, 
and spreadeth every way from one quarter to another: well 
may mariners stay a ship with cables and anchors, when the 
violence of the wind is ready to drive and carry her an end, 
or at leastwise they may moderate her swift and flight course; 
but if a word be issued out of the mouth, as out of her haven, 
and have gotten sea-room, there is no bay nor harbour to ride 
in, there is no casting of anchor will serve the turn, away she 
goes with a mighty noise and hurry, until in the end she runs 
upon some rock and is split, or else into a great and deep gulf, 
to the present danger of him who set her forth: 

For in small time, and with a little spark 
Of fire, a man may burn the forest tall 
Of Ida mount ; ev'n so (who list to mark) 
All town will hear, a word to one let fall. 

The senate of Rome upon a time sat in sad and serious 
counsel many days together, about a matter of great secrecy: 
now the thing being so much the more suspected and hearkened 
after, as it was less apparent and known abroad, a certain 
Roman dame, otherwise a good, sober and wise matron (howbeit 
a woman), importuned her husband and instantly besought him 
of all loves to tell her what this secret matter might be upon 
which they did sit so close in consultation? protesting with 
many an oath and execrable curse to keep silence and not to 
utter it to any creature in the world ; you must think also, that 
she had tears at command, lamenting and complaining withal 
what an unhappy woman she was, in case her husband would 

Intemperate Speech or Garrulity 257 

not trust her so much as with a word: the Roman senator her 
husband minding to try and reprove her folly: Thou hast 
overcome me, sweetheart (quoth he), and through thine impor- 
tunity thou shalt hear of a strange and terrible occurrent that 
troubleth us all. So it is, that we are advertised by our priests 
that there hath been a lark of late seen flying in the air, with a 
golden cop or crest on her head in manner of an helmet, and 
withal bearing a javelin: hereupon we do confer and consult 
with our soothsayers and diviners, desirous to be certified out 
of their learning, whether this prodigious token portend good 
or hurt to the commonweal; but keep it to thyself (as thou 
lovest me), and tell it nobody. When he had thus said, he went 
forth toward the common hall and market-place: his wife 
incontinently had no sooner spied one of her waiting-maidens 
coming into the room, but she drew her apart, begun to beat 
and knock her own breast, to rend and tear the hair off her 
head, and therewith: Ah, woe's me (quoth she) for my poor 
husband, my sweet native country; alas and welladay, what 
shall we do, and what will become of us all? as if she taught 
her maid and were desirous that she should say thus unto her 
again: Why, what is the matter, mistress? Now when the 
maiden thereupon asked her, What news? she set tale an end 
and told all, marry, she forgat not the common and ordinary 
burden or clause, that all blabs of their tongue use to come in 
with: But in any case (quoth she) say nothing, but keep it to 
thyself. Scarce was she gone out of her mistress's sight, but 
seeing one of her fellows whom she found most at leisure and 
•doing little or nothing, to her she imparted all. That wench 
again made no more ado, but to her lover she goes, who haply 
then was come to visit her, and telleth him as much. By this 
means the tale was bruited abroad, and passed roundly from one 
to another; insomuch as the rumour thereof was run into the 
market-place, and there went current before the first author 
and deviser thereof himself was gotten thither. For there 
meets with him one of his familiars and friends: How now 
(quoth he), are you come but now directly from your house to 
the market-place ? No (quoth he again), I am but newly come : 
Why then belike (saith the other) you have heard no news? 
News (quoth he), what news should I hear? and what tidings 
can you tell me off ? Why, man (answered he again), there hath 
been of late a lark seen flying with a golden cop or crest on her 
head, and carrying beside a javelin; and the consuls with other 
magistrates are ready to call a senate house for to sit upon this 


2 5 8 

Plutarch's Morals 

strange occurrent. With that the senator beforesaid, turning 
aside and smiling, thus said to himself: Well done, wife, I con 
thee thank for thy quickness and celerity, thou hast quit thyself 
well indeed, that the word which erewhile I uttered unto thee 
is gotten before me into the market-place. Well, the first thing 
that he did was this : To the magistrates he went straightways, 
signified unto them the occasion of this speech, and freed them 
from all fear and trouble: but when he was come home to his 
own house he fell in hand to chastise his wife : How now, dame 
(quoth he), how is this come to pass ? you have undone me for 
ever; for it is found and known for a truth, that this secret 
and matter of counsel which I imparted to you, is divulged and 
published abroad, and that out of my house: and thus your 
unbridled tongue is the cause that I must abandon and fly my 
country, and forthwith depart into exile. Now when at the 
first she would have denied the thing stoutly, and alleged for her 
excuse and defence, saying : Are not there three hundred senators 
besides yourself who heard it as well as you ? No marvel then if 
it be known abroad. What, tell you me of three hundred (quoth 
he). Upon your importunate instance, I devised it of mine own 
head, in mirth, to try your silence, and whether you could keep 
counsel. Certes, this senator was a wise man and went safely 
and warily to work, who to make proof of his wife, whom he 
took to be no sounder nor surer than a cracked and rotten 
vessel, would not pour into it either wine or oil, but water only, 
to see if it would leak and run out. 

But Fulvius, one of the favourites and minions of Augustus 
the emperor, when he was now well steeped in years, having 
heard him toward his latter days lamenting and bewailing the 
desolate estate of his house, in that he had no children of his 
own body begotten, and that of his three nephews or sisters' 
children two were dead, and Posthumius (who only remained 
alive), upon an imputation charged upon him, confined and 
living in banishment, whereupon he was enforced to bring in 
his wife's son, and declare him heir apparent to succeed him 
in the empire: notwithstanding upon a tender compassion he 
was otherwhiles in deliberation with himself, and minded to 
recall his foresaid sister's son from exile and the place whereunto 
he was confined. Fulvius (I say), being privy to these moans 
and designs of his, went home and told his wife all that he 
had heard. She could not hold, but goes to the Empress Livia, 
wife of Augustus, and reported what her husband Fulvius had 
told her. Whereupon Livia, taking great indignation, sharply 

Intemperate Speech or Garrulity 259 

did contest and expostulate with Caesar in these terms: That 
seeing it is so (quoth she) that you had so long before projected 
and determined such a thing as to call home again your nephew 
aforesaid; why sent you not for him at the first, but exposed 
me to hatred, enmity and war with him, who another day 
should wear the diadem and be emperor after your decease? 
Well, the next morning betimes, when Fulvius came, as his 
manner was, to salute Caesar and give him good morrow, after 
he had said unto him x a '-P e ) Kcu<ra/o, that is, God save you, 
Caesar; he resaluted him no otherwise but this, vyiaivt, <£ovA./?ie, 
that is, God make you wise, Fulvius. Fulvius soon found him 
and conceived presently what he meant thereby ; whereupon he 
retired home to his house with all speed, and called for his wife; 
unto whom : Caesar (quoth he) is come to the knowledge that I 
have not kept his counsel nor concealed his secrets ; and there- 
fore I am resolved to make myself away with mine own hands. 
And well worthy (quoth she), for justly you have deserved death, 
who having lived so long with me, knew not the incontinence of 
my tongue all this while, nor would take heed and beware of it; 
but yet surfer me first to die upon your sword ; and with that, 
catching hold thereof, killed herself before her husband. And 
therefore Philippides, the comedian, did very wisely in his 
answer to King Lysimachus, who by way of all courtesy making 
much of him, and minding to do him honour, demanded of him 
thus: What wouldest thou have me to impart unto thee of all 
other treasure and riches that I have? What it shall please 
your majesty (quoth he), my gracious lord, so it be none of 
your sep rets. 

Moreover, there is adjoined ordinarily unto garrulity another 
vice no less than it; namely, busy intermeddling and curiosity, 
for men desire to hear and know much news, because they 
may report and blaze the same abroad, and especially if they 
be secrets. Thus go they up and down listening, inquiring, and 
searching if they can find and discover some close and hidden 
speeches, adding as it were some old surcharge of odious matters 
to their toys and fooleries ; which maketh them afterwards to be 
like unto little boys, who neither can hold ice in their hands, 
nor yet will let it go; or to say more truly, they clasp and 
contain in their bosoms secret speeches, resembling serpents, 
which they are not able to hold and keep long, but are eaten 
and gnawed by them. It is said that certain fishes called the 
sea-needles, yea and the vipers, do cleave and burst when they 
bring forth their young; and even so, secrets when they be let 

260 Plutarch's Morals 

fall out of their mouths, who cannot contain them, undo and 
overthrow those that reveal them. 

King Seleucus (him, I mean, who was surnamed Callinicus, 
that is, the victorious conqueror) in one battle against the 
Galatians was defeated, he and his whole power; whereupon 
he took from his head the diadem or royal band that he wear, 
and rode away on the spur on horseback with three or four in 
his company, wandering through desarts and byways unknown 
so long, until both horse and man were done and ready to faint 
for weariness: at length he came unto a country kearns or 
peasant's cottage ; and finding (by good fortune) the good man 
of the house within, asked for bread and water; which the said 
peasant or cottier gave unto him; and not that only, but look, 
what the field would afford else besides he imparted unto him 
and his company with a willing heart and in great plenty, 
making them the best cheer that he could devise: in the end 
he knew the king's face, whereupon he took such joy, in that 
his hap was to entertain the king in his necessity, that he could 
not contain himself, nor second the king in dissembling his 
knowledge, who desired nothing more than to be unknown; 
when he had therefore brought the king onward on his way, 
and was to take his leave of him: Adieu (quoth he), King 
Seleucus: with that the king reached forth his hand, and drew 
him toward him, as if he would have kissed him, and withal 
beckoned to one of his followers, and gave him a secret token to 
take his sword and make the man shorter by the head. 

Thus whiles he spake (I wot not what) his head 
Off goes, and lies in dust when he was dead; 

whereas, if he could have held his tongue a little while longer, 
and mastered himself, when the king afterwards had better 
fortune and recovered his greatness and puissance, he should 
in my conceit have gotten more thanks at his hands, and been 
better rewarded for keeping silence than for all the courtesy and 
hospitality that he shewed. And yet this fellow had in some 
sort a colourable excuse for this intemperate tongue of his, to 
wit, his own hopes and the goodwill that he bare unto the king: 
but the most part of these prattlers undo themselves without 
any cause or pretence at all of reason: like as it befell unto 
Denys the Tyrant's barber: for when (upon a time) there were 
some talking in his shop as touching his tyrannical government 
and estate, how assured it was, and as hard to be ruined or 
overthrown as it is to break the diamond: the said barber 

Intemperate Speech or Garrulity 261 

laughing thereat: I marvel (quoth he) that you should say so 
of Denys, who is so often under my hands, and at whose throat 
in a manner every day I hold my razor: these words were soon 
carried to the tyrant Denys, who fair crucified this barber and 
hanged him for his foolish words. And to say a truth, all the 
sort of these barbers be commonly busy fellows with their 
tongue; and no marvel, for lightly the greatest praters and 
idlest persons in a country frequent the barber's shop, and sit 
in his chair, where they keep such chat, that it cannot be but 
by hearing them prate so customably, his tongue also must walk 
with them. And therefore King Archelaus answered very 
pleasantly unto a barber of his, that was a man of no few words, 
who when he had cast his linen cloth about his shoulders, said 
unto him: Sir, may it please your highness to tell me how I 
shall cut or shave you ? Marry (quoth he), holding thy tongue 
and saying not a word. A barber it was who first reported in 
the city of Athens the news of that great discomfiture and over- 
throw which the Athenians received in Sicily; for keeping his 
shop (as he did) in that end of the suburbs called Pyraeum, he 
had no sooner heard the said unlucky news of a certain slave 
who fled from thence out of the field when it was lost, but 
leaving shop and all at six and seven, ran directly into the city, 
and never rested to bring the said tidings, and whiles they were 
fresh and fire-new, 

For fear some else might all the honour win, 
And he too late, or second, should come in. 

Now upon the broaching of these unwelcome tidings, a man 
may well think (and not without good cause) that there was a 
great stir within the city; insomuch, as the people assembled 
together into the market-place or common hall, and search was 
made for the author of this rumour: hereupon the said barber 
was haled and brought before the body of the people, and 
examined; who knew not so much as the name of the party of 
whom he heard this news; But well assured I am (quoth he) 
that one said so, marry, who it was or what his name might be 
I cannot tell. Thus it was taken for an headless tale, and the 
whole theatre or assembly was so moved to anger, that they 
cried out with one voice ; Away with the villain, have the varlet 
to the rack, set the knave upon the wheel, he it is only that hath 
made all on his own fingers' ends, this hath he and none but he 
devised; for who else hath heard it, or who besides him hath 
believed it? Well, the wheel was brought, and upon it was the 

262 Plutarch's Morals 

barber stretched : meanwhile, and even as the poor wretch was 
hoisted thereupon, behold there arrived and came to the city 
those who brought certain news indeed of the said defeature, 
even they who made a shift to escape out of that infortunate 
field : then brake up the assembly, and every man departed and 
retired home to his own house, for to bewail his own private loss 
and calamity, leaving the silly barber lying along bound to the 
wheel, and racked out to the length, and there remained he until 
it was very late in the evening, at what time he was let loose; 
and no sooner was he at liberty but he must needs inquire news 
of the executioner, and namely; what they heard abroad of the 
general himself, Nicias, and in what sort he was slain? So 
inexpugnable and incorrigible a vice is this, gotten by custom 
of much talk, that a man cannot leave it, though he were 
going to the gallows, nor keep in those tidings which no man 
is willing to hear : for certes, like as they who have drunk bitter 
potions or unsavoury medicines, cannot away with the very 
cups wherein they were; even so, they that bring evil and 
heavy tidings, are ordinarily hated and detested of those unto 
whom they report the same. And therefore Sophocles the 
poet hath very finely distinguished upon this point in these 
verses : 

Messenger. Is it your heart, or else your ear, 

That this offends, which you do hear? 
Creon. And why dost thou search my disease, 

To know what grief doth me displease ? 
Messenger. His deeds (I see) offend your heart, 

But my words cause your ears to smart. 

Well then, those who tell us any woeful news be as odious as 
they who work our woe ; and yet for all that, there is no restraint 
and bridling of an untemperate tongue that is given to talk 
and overreach. It fortuned one day at Lacedsemon, that the 
temple of Juno, called there Chalciaecos, was robbed, and within 
it was found a certain empty flagon or stone bottle for wine: 
great running there was and concourse of the people thither, 
and men could not tell what to make of that flagon: at last 
one of them that stood by; My masters (quoth he), if you will 
give me leave, I shall tell you what my conceit is of that flagon, 
for my mind gives me (saith he) that these church-robbers who 
projected to execute so perilous an enterprise, had first drunk 
the juice of hemlock before they entered into the action, and 
afterwards brought wine with them in this bottle, to the end 
that if they were not surprised nor taken in the manner, they 
might save their lives by drinking each of them a good draught 

Intemperate Speech or Garrulity 263 

of mere wine; the nature and virtue whereof (as you know 
well enough) is to quench as it were and dissolve the vigour 
and strength of that poison, and so go their ways safe enough, 
but if it chance that they were taken in the deed doing, then 
they might by means of that hemlock which they had drunk 
die an easy death, and without any great pain and torment, 
before that they were put to torture by the magistrate. He 
had no sooner delivered this speech, but the whole company 
who heard his words, thought verily that such a contrived device 
and so deep a reach as this never came from one that suspected 
such a matter, but rather knew that it was so indeed; where- 
upon they flocked round about, and hemmed him in, and on 
every side each one had a saying unto him : And what art thou? 
quoth one. From whence art thou? saith another. Here 
comes one and asketh, who knew him? there sets upon him 
another, saying: And how comest thou by the light of all this 
that thou hast delivered ? to be short, they handled the matter 
so well that they forced him to bewray himself in the end, and 
to confess that he was one of them that committed the sacrilege. 
Were not they also who murdered the poet Ibycus discovered 
and taken after the same manner? It happened that the said 
murderers were set at a theatre to behold the plays and pastimes 
which were exhibited; and seeing a flight of cranes over their 
heads, they whispered one to another: Lo, these be they that 
will revenge the death of Ibycus. Now had not Ibycus been a 
long time before seen, and much search was made after him, 
because he was out of the way and missed; whereupon they 
that sate next unto these men overhearing those words of 
theirs, and well noting the speech, went directly to the magis- 
trates and justices to give intelligence and information of their 
words. Then were they attached and examined; and thus 
being convicted, suffered punishment in the end, not by the 
means of those cranes that they talked of, but surely by their 
own blab-tongues; as if some hellish fury had forced them to 
disclose that murder which they had committed. For like as in 
our bodies the members diseased and in pain draw humours 
continually unto them, and all the corruption of the parts near 
unto them flow thither; even so, the tongue of a babbling fellow, 
being never without an inflammation and a feverous pulse, 
draweth always and gathereth to it one secret and hidden thing 
or other. In which regard it ought to be well sensed with a 
rampart, and the bulwark of reason should evermore be set 
against it, which like unto a bar may stay and stop that over- 


Plutarch's Morals 

flowing and inconstant lubricity which it hath; that we be not 
more undiscreet and foolish beasts than geese are, who when 
they be to take a flight into Cilicia over the mountain Taurus, 
which is full of eagles, take up every one in their bill a good big 
stone, which serveth them instead of a lock or bridle to restrain 
their gaggling; by which device they may pass all night long 
without any noise, and not be heard at all or descried by the 
said eagles. 

Now if one should demand and ask of me, what person of all 
others is most mischievous and dangerous ? I believe very well 
there is no man would name any other but a traitor. And yet 
Euthycrates (as saith Demosthenes) by his treason covered his 
own house with a roof made of timber that he had out of 
Macedonia. Philocrates also lived richly and gallant of that 
great mass of gold and silver which he had of King Philip for 
betraying his country, and therewith furnished himself with 
brave harlots, gallant concubines and dainty fishes. Euphorbius 
also, and Philagrus, who betrayed Eretria, were endowed by the 
king with fair lands and possessions : but a prattler is a traitor 
voluntary and for nothing, he demandeth no hire at all, neither 
looketh he to be solicited, but offereth himself and his service; 
nor betrayeth unto the enemies either horses or walls, but 
revealeth hidden secrets, and discloseth speeches which are to 
be concealed, whether it be in judicial matters of law or in 
seditious discords, or in managing of state affairs, it makes no 
matter, and no man conneth him thanks; nay, he will think 
himself beholden to others, if they will vouchsafe to give him 
audience. And therefore, that which is commonly said to a 
prodigal person, who foolishly mis-spendeth and vainly wasteth 
his substance he cares not how, to gratify every man: Thou 
art not liberal; this is no courtesy; a vice it is rather that thou 
are disposed unto, thus to take pleasure in nothing, but giving 
and giving still. The same rebuke and reprehension serveth 
very fitly for a babbler: Thou art no friend nor well-wilier of 
mine, thus to come and discover these things unto me; this is 
thy fault, and a disease which thou art sick of, that lovest to be 
clattering and hast no mind but of chatting. 

Now would I have the reader to think that I write not all 
this, so much to accuse and blame the vice and malady of 
garrulity, as to cure and heal the same. For by judgment and 
exercise we surmount and overcome the vices and passions of 
the mind; but judgment, that is to say, knowledge, must go 
before: for no man accustometh himself to void, and (as it 

Intemperate Speech or Garrulity 265 

were), to weed them out of the soul, unless he hate and detest 
them first. Now then, and never before, begin we to take an 
hatred to vices, when by the light of reason we consider and 
weigh the shame and loss that cometh unto us by them : as for 
example, we know and see that these great praters, whiles they 
desire to win love, gain hatred; thinking to do a pleasure, they 
displease; looking to be well esteemed, are mocked and derided; 
they lay for lucre, and get nothing; they hurt their friends, aid 
their enemies, and undo themselves. 

So then, let this be the first receipt and medicine for to cure 
this malady; even the consideration and reckoning up of the 
shameful infamies and painful inconveniences that proceed and 
ensue thereof. The second remedy is, to take a survey of the 
contrary; that is to say, to hear always, to remember and have 
ready at hand the praises and commendations of silence, the 
majesty (I say), the mystical gravity and holiness of taciturnity, 
to represent always unto our mind and understanding, how much 
more admired, how much more loved, and how far wiser they 
are reputed, who speak roundly at once, and in few words, their 
mind pithily; who in a short and compendious speech com- 
prehend more good matter and substance a great deal, than 
these great talkers, whose tongues are unbridled and run at 
random. Those (I say) be they whom Plato so highly esteemeth, 
comparing them to skilful and well-practised archers and 
darters, who have the feat of shooting arrows and lancing 
darts; for they know how and when to speak graciously and 
bitterly, soundly, pithily, and compactly. And verily, wise 
Lycurgus framed and exercised his citizens immediately from 
their childhood by keeping them down at the first with silence 
to this short and sententious kind of speech, whereby they 
spake always compendiously, and knit up much in a little. For 
like as they of Biskay or Celtiberia do make their steel of iron, by 
entering it and letting it lie first within the ground, and then 
by purging and refining it from the gross, terrene, and earthly 
substance that it hath; even so the Laconians' speech hath no 
outward bark (as a man would say) or crust upon it, but when 
all the superfluity thereof is taken away, it is steeled (as it were) 
and tempered, yea, and hath an edge upon it, fit for to work 
withal and to pierce: and verily that apophthegmatical and 
powerful speech of theirs, that grace which they had to answer 
sententiously and with such gravity, together with a quick and 
ready gift to meet at every turn with all objections, they attained 
unto by nothing else but by their much silence. 

266 Plutarch's Morals 

Wherefore, it were very expedient to set ever before the eyes 
of these great praters those short and witty speeches, that they 
may see what grace and gravity both they have : as for example ; 
The Lacedaemonians unto Philip, greeting: Dionysius in Corinth. 
Also another time, when Philip had written unto them to this 
effect : If I enter once into the confines of Laconia, I will destroy 
you utterly that you shall never rise again; they returned this 
answer again in writing: AiVa; that is, If. Likewise when King 
Demetrius in great displeasure and indignation cried out aloud 
in these words : The Lacedcemonians have sent unto me an ambas- 
sador alone, and who hath no fellow ; meaning that there came 
but one : the said ambassador, nothing daunted at his words, 
answered readily: One for one. Certes, they that used to speak 
short and sententiously, were highly esteemed long ago with 
our ancients and forefathers. And hereupon it was that the Am- 
phictyons, that is to say, the deputies or states for the general 
counsel of all Greece, gave order that there should be written 
over the door of the Temple of Apollo Pythius, not the Odyssey 
or Bias of Homer, nor yet the canticles or paeans of Pindarus ; 
but these brief sentences: TvmOl a-avrbv, that is, Know thyself; 
MrjSev ayav, that is, Too much of nothing; also 'Eyyua, irdpa 
8'ara, that is, Be surety and make account to pay: so highly 
esteemed they a plain, simple, and round manner of speaking, 
which comprised in few words much matter, and a sentence 
massy and sound: and no marvel, for Apollo himself loveth 
brevity, and is in his oracles very succinct and pithy; wherefore 
else is he surnamed Loxias? but because he chooseth rather to 
avoid plurality than obscurity of words. They also who without 
word uttered at all, signify the conceptions of their mind by 
certain symbolical devices, and after that manner deliver good 
lessons unto us; are they not sundry ways commended and 
admired exceedingly? Thus Heraclitus in times past, being 
requested by his neighbours and fellow-citizens to make a sen- 
tentious speech unto them, and deliver his opinion as touching 
civil unity and concord, mounted up into the pulpit, and taking 
a cup of cold water in his hand, bespiced it (as it were) with 
some meal, and with a sprig or two of the herb pennyroyal, 
shook all together: which done, he drank it off, and so came 
down and went his way: giving them by this demonstration 
thus much to understand; that if men would take up with a 
little and be content with things at hand, without desiring costly 
superfluities, it were the next way to keep and preserve cities 
in peace and concord. 

Intemperate Speech or Garrulity 267 

Scylurus, a king of the Scythians, left behind him fourscore 
sons; and when the hour of his death drew near, he called for 
a bundle of darts or a sheaf of arrows to be brought unto him, 
which he put into his children's hands one after another, and 
willed each one to break and burst the same in pieces, bound 
as it was entire and whole together: which when they had 
assayed to do, and putting all their strength unto it, could not, 
but gave over, himself took out of the sheaf or knitch the darts 
aforesaid one by one, and knapt them in twain single as they 
were with facility, declaring by this device, that so long as they 
held together their union and agreement would be strong and 
invincible; but their discord and disunion would make them 
feeble, and be an occasion that they should not long continue. 
He, then, that continually shall have these and such-like prece- 
dents in his mouth, and ordinarily repeat and remember the 
same, will peradventure take no great pleasure and delight in 
idle and superfluous words. For mine own part, surely I am 
abashed mightily at the example of that domestical servant at 
Rome, when I consider with myself what a great matter it is 
to be well advised before a man speaketh, and constantly to hold 
and maintain the resolution of any purpose. Publius Piso, the 
great orator and rhetorician, because he would provide that his 
people and servitors about him should not trouble his head with 
much prattle, gave order and commandment unto them, that 
they should make answer unto his demands only, and no more: 
now being minded one day to entertain Clodius, the chief ruler 
of the city, at his house, he bade him to supper, and caused him 
to be sent for and called at the time accordingly: for a stately 
and royal feast he had provided, by all likelihood, and as any 
man would think, no less : now when supper time was come, the 
rest of the invited guests were present, Clodius only they stayed 
and looked for; meanwhile, Piso had sent out oftentimes unto 
him one of his servitors who was wont ordinarily to bid his 
guests for to see whether he were coming, or would come to 
supper or no ? but when it grew late in the evening, so that there 
was no hope now that he would be there: Now, sirrah (quoth 
Piso to his man aforesaid), didst thou not invite and bid him? 
Yes iwis, sir: Why then comes he not? said the master again: 
Forsooth (quoth he), because he denied to come: And why 
toldest thou not me this immediately? Because, sir, you never 
asked me the question. Well, this was a Roman servitor; but 
an Athenian servant I trow, whiles he is digging and delving, will 
tell his master news, and namely, what be the articlesjjand 

268 Plutarch's Morals 

capitulations in the treaty and composition of peace. So power- 
ful and forcible is use and custom in all things, whereof I purpose 
now to treat; for that there is no bit nor bridle that is able to 
repress, tame and keep in a talkative tongue, but it is custom 
that must do the deed and conquer this malady. 

First and foremost, therefore, when in company there shall 
be any question propounded by them that are about thee, 
frame and use thyself to hold thy tongue and be silent, until 
thou see that every man else refuseth to speak and make answer: 
for according to Sophocles: 

To counsel and to run a course in race 

Have not both twain one end, to haste apace. 

No more verily doth a voice and an answer shoot at the same 
mark that running aimeth at: for there, to wit, in a race, he 
winneth the prize that getteth to be foremost; but here, if 
another man have delivered a sufficient answer, it will be well 
enough, by praising and approving his speech, to gain the 
opinion and reputation of a courteous person; if not, then will 
it not be thought impertinent, neither can envy or hatred come 
of it, in case a man do gently shew and open that wherein the 
other was ignorant, and so after a mild and civil manner supply 
the defect of the former answer: but above all, this regard 
would be had: That when a question or demand is addressed 
and directed unto another, we take it not upon ourselves; and 
so anticipate and prevent his answer; and peradventure, neither 
in this nor in anything else, is it decent and commendable to 
offer and put forth ourselves too forward before we be required ; 
and in this case, when another man is asked a question, our 
own intrusion, with the putting by of him, is not seemly; for 
we may be thought (in so doing) both to injure and discredit 
the party demanded, as if he were not able to perform that 
which was put upon him, and also to reproach the demandant, 
as though he had little skill and discretion, to ask a thing of him 
who could not give the same: and that which more is, such 
malapert boldness and heady hastiness in rash answering, im- 
porteth (most of all) exceeding arrogancy and presumption; 
for it seemeth, that he who taketh the answer out of his mouth 
of whom the question is demanded, would say thus much in 
effect: What need have we of him? what can he say unto it? 
what skill or knowledge hath he ? when I am in place, no man 
ought to ask any other of these matters, but myself only. And 
yet many times we propose questions unto some, not of any 

Intemperate Speech or Garrulity 269 

great desire that we have to hear their answers, but only because 
we would find talk, and minister occasion of discourse, seeking 
thereby to draw from them some words that may yield matter 
of mirth and pleasant conference: after which sort, Socrates 
used to provoke Theaetetus and Charmides. 

To prevent therefore the answer of another, to turn away 
men's ears, to divert their eyes and draw their cogitations from 
him to ourselves, is as much as if we should run before and 
make haste to kiss one first, who was minded to be kissed of 
another, or to enforce him to look upon us, whose eyes were set 
and fixed upon another; considering, that although the party 
unto whom the demand was made, be either not able nor willing 
to make answer, it were befitting for a man, after some little 
pause made, to present himself in all modesty and reverence, 
and then to frame and accommodate his speech as near unto 
that as may be, which he thinketh will content the mind of 
him that made the demand, and so answer (as it were) in the 
name of the other: for if they who are demanded a question 
make no good and sufficient answer, great reason they have to 
be pardoned and held excused; but he who intrudeth himself, 
and taking the words out of another's mouth, is ready to speak 
before he be spoken unto, by good right is odious, although he 
answer otherwise sufficiently; but if he fail, and make no good 
answer, certes he maketh himself ridiculous, and a very laughing- 
stock to the whole company. 

The second point of exercise and meditation is in a man's own 
particular answers, wherein he ought especially to be careful and 
take heed who is given to over-much talk, to the end that they 
who would provoke him to speak, and all to make themselves 
merry and to laugh at him, may well know that he answereth 
not he knows not what inconsiderately, but with good advice 
and seriously to the point: for such there be in the world, who 
for no need at all, but only for to pass time in mirth, devise 
certain questions for the nonce, and in that manner propound 
them to such persons for no other end but to provoke them to 
prattle; and therefore they ought to have a good eye and regard 
before them, not to leap out and run all on a sudden hastily to 
their answer, as if they were well pleased and beholden unto 
them for to have such an occasion of speech; but with mature 
deliberation to consider the nature and behaviour of him that 
putteth out the question, together with the necessity thereof, 
and the profit that may ensue thereby; and if it appear, indeed, 
that the party be in good earnest, and desirous to learn and be 

270 Plutarch's Morals 

instructed, then he must accustom himself to repress his tongue 
and take some pause, allowing a competent space of time between 
the demand and the answer; during which silence, both the 
demander may have while to bethink himself and add somewhat 
thereto, if he list, and also the demande time to think of an answer, 
and not let his tongue run before his wit, and so huddle up a con- 
fused answer before the question be fully propounded : for often- 
times it falleth out that for very haste they take no heed of those 
things which were demanded, but answer kim-kam, and one 
thing for another. True it is (I must needs say) that Pythia, 
the priestess of Apollo's temple, is wont to give answer by oracle 
at the same instant that the question is demanded, yea, and 
oftentimes before it be asked; for why? the god whom she 

Doth understand the dumb, who cannot speak, 
And knows one's mind, before the tongue it break ; 

but among men, he that would wisely and to the purpose answer, 
ought to stay until he conceive the thought, and fully under- 
stand the intent of him that proposeth a question, lest that 
befall unto him which is said in the common proverb: 

About an hook I question made, 
And they gave answer of a spade ; 

and otherwise also, if that inconvenience were not, yet are we 
to bridle this lavish and hasty tongue of ours, and restrain the 
inordinate and hungry appetite which we have to be talking; 
lest it be thought that we had a flux (as it were) of humours 
gathered a long time about the tongue, and grown into an 
impostume, which we are very well content should be let out, 
and have issue made by a question tendered unto us, and so 
by that means be discharged thereof. Socrates was wont in 
this manner to restrain and repress his thirst, after that he had 
enchafed his body and set himself into an heat, either by 
wrestling, or running, or such-like exercises; he would not 
permit himself to drink before he had poured out the first bucket 
of water that he had drawn out of the pit or well, acquainting 
this his sensual appetite to attend the fit and convenient time 
that reason appointed. 

Moreover, this would be noted, that there be three kinds of 
answers unto interrogations; the first necessary, the second 
civil, and the third needless and superfluous: as, for example: 
If one should ask whether Socrates be within or no; he that is 
unwilling or not ready and forward with his tongue, would 

Intemperate Speech or Garrulity 271 

make answer and say: He is not within, but if he be disposed 
to laconise a little, and speak more brief, he would leave out the 
word (within) and say: He is not; or yet more short than so, 
pronouncing only the negative adverb, and saying no more but 
No. Thus the Lacedaemonians dealt once by Philip; for when 
he had dispatched his letters unto them to this effect; To know 
whether they would receive him into their city or no: they 
wrote back again, in fair great capital letters, within a sheet 
of paper, no more but OY, that is to say, No : and so sent it 
unto him: but he that would make answer to the former 
question of Socrates a little more civilly and courteously, would 
say thus: He is not within, sir, for he is gone to the bank or 
exchange; and to give yet a somewhat better measure, he 
might perhaps add, moreover, and say; He looketh there for 
certain strangers and friends of his. But a vain prating fellow, 
and one that loves many words, especially if his hap hath been 
to read the book of Antimachus the Colophonian, will make 
answer to the demand aforesaid in this wise: He is not within, 
sir, gone he is to the burse or exchange, for there he expecteth 
certain strangers out of Ionia, of whom and in whose behalf 
Alcibiades wrote unto him, who now maketh his abode within 
the city of Miletus, sojourneth with Tissaphernes, one of the 
lieutenants-general of the great King of Persia; who before 
time was in league with the Lacedaemonians, stood their friend, 
and sent them aid; but not for the love of Alcibiades, he is 
turned from them and is sided with the Athenians : for Alcibiades, 
being desirous to return into his own country, hath prevailed 
so much that he hath altered Tissaphernes his mind, and drawn 
him away from our part : and thus shall you have him rehearse 
in good earnest the whole eighth book (in manner) of Thucydides 
his story, until he have overwhelmed a man with a multitude of 
narrations, and made him believe that in Miletus there is some 
great sedition; that it is ready to be lost, and Alcibiades to be 
banished a second time. 

Herein then ought a man principally to set his foot and stay 
his overmuch language, so as the centre and circumference of 
the answer be that which he who maketh the demand desireth 
and hath need to know. Carneades, before he had any great 
name, disputed one day in the public schools and place appointed 
for exercise: unto whom the master or president of the place 
sent beforehand, and gave him warning to moderate his voice 
(for he spake naturally exceeding big and loud, so as the schools 
rung again therewith): Give me, then (quoth he), a gauge and 

272 Plutarch's Morals 

measure for my voice; upon whom the said master replied thus 
not unproperly: Let him that dispute th with thee be the 
measure and rule to moderate thy voice by; even so a man may 
in this case say: The measure that he ought to keep who 
answereth, is the very will and mind of him that proposeth the 
question. Moreover, like as Socrates forbade those meats which 
drew men on to eat when they are not hungry, and likewise 
those drinks which caused them to drink who are not athirst, 
even so should a man who is given to much prattle be afraid of 
those discourses wherein he delighteth most, and which he is 
wont to use and take greatest pleasure in; and in case he perceive 
them to run willingly upon him for to withstand the same, and 
not give them entertainment. As, for example, martial men 
and warriors love to discourse and tell of battles ; which is the 
reason that the poet Homer bringeth in Nestor 1 eftsoons 
recounting his own prowess and feats of arms: and ordinary it 
is with them who in judicial trials have had the upper hand of 
their adversaries, or who beyond the hope and opinion of every 
man have obtained grace and favour with kings and princes, 
to be subject unto this malady that evermore followeth them, 
namely to report and recount eftsoons the manner how they 
came in place ; after what sort they were brought in ; the order 
of their pleading; how they argued the case ; how they convinced 
their accusers, and overthrew their adversaries ; last of all, how 
they were praised and commended: for to say a truth, joy and 
mirth is much more talkative than that old Agrypnia which the 
poets do feign and devise in their comedies: for it rouseth and 
stirreth up, it reneweth and refresheth itself ever and anon, 
with many discourses and narrations; whereupon ready they 
are to fall into such speeches upon every light and colourable 
occasion: for not only is it true which the common proverb 
saith : 

Look where a man doth feel his pain and grief, 
His hand will soon be there to yield relief, 

but also joy and contentment draweth unto it the voice, it 
leadeth the tongue always about with it, and is evermore willing 
to be remembered and related. Thus we see that amorous 
lovers pass the greater part of their time in rehearsing certain 
words which may renew the remembrance of their loves, inso- 
much that if they cannot meet with one person or other to 
relate the same unto, they will devise and talk of them with such 
1 Hector, rather, as some read. 

Intemperate Speech or Garrulity 273 

things as have neither sense nor life : like as we read of one who 
break forth into these words: 

O dainty bed, most sweet and pleasant couch, 

O blessed lamp, O happy candle light, 
No less than God doth Bacchus you avouch, 

Nay, God you are the mightiest in her sight. 

And verily a busy prater is altogether (as one would say) a 
white line or strake in regard of all words, to wit, without dis- 
cretion he speaketh indifferently of all matters; howbeit if he 
be affected more to some than to others, he ought to take heed 
thereof, and abstain from them; he is (I say) to withdraw and 
writhe himself from thence; for that by reason of the content- 
ment which he may therein take, and the pleasure that he 
receiveth thereby, they may lead him wide and carry him every 
while very far out of the way: the same inclination to overshoot 
themselves in prating they find also when they discourse of those 
matters wherein they suppose themselves to have better expe- 
rience, and a more excellent habit than others: such an one, I 
say, being a self-lover and ambitious withal: 

Most part of all the day in this doth spend, 
Himself to pass, and others to transcend. 

As, for example, in histories if he hath read much; in artificial 
style and couching of his words, he that is a grammarian; in 
relation of strange reports and news, who hath been a great 
traveller and wandered through many foreign countries : hereof 
therefore great heed would be taken ; for garrulity being therein 
fleshed and baited, willingly runneth to the old and usual haunt, 
like as every beast seeketh out the ordinary and accustomed 

And in this point was the young prince Cyrus of a wonderful 
and excellent nature, who would never challenge his play- 
fellows and consorts in age unto any exercise wherein he knew 
himself to be superior and to surpass, but always to such feats 
wherein he was less practised than they; which he did as well 
because he would not grieve their hearts in winning the prize 
from them, as also for that he would profit thereby, and learn 
to do that wherein he was more raw and unready than they. 
But a talkative fellow contrariwise; if there be a matter pro- 
posed whereby he may hear and learn somewhat that he knew 
not before, rejecteth and refuseth it; he cannot for his life hold 
his tongue and keep silence a little while, to gain thereby some 
hire and reward, but casting and rolling his thought round about, 

274 Plutarch's Morals 

he never rests until he light upon some old ragged rhapsodies 
and overworn discourses, which he hath patched and tacked 
together a thousand times. Such a one there was among us, 
who happened by chance to have perused two or three books of 
Ephorus; whereby he took himself to be so great a clerk and 
so well read, that he wearied every man's ears who heard him 
talk; there was no assembly nor feast unto which he came, but 
he would force the company to arise and depart with his un- 
measurable prating of the battle of Leuctres, and the ocCurrents 
that ensued thereupon, insomuch as he got himself a by-name, 
and every man called him Epaminondas. But this is the least 
inconvenience of all others that followeth this infirmity of much 
babbling: and surely one good means it is to the cure thereof; 
To turn the same from other matters to such as these: for 
thereby shall their tongue be less troublesome and offensive 
when it passeth the bonds in the terms only of literature. 

Over and besides, for the remedy of this their disease, they 
shall do well to inure and accustom themselves to write some- 
what, and to dispute of questions apart. Thus did Antipater 
the Stoic, who as it may be thought, being not able nor willing 
to hold out in disputation hand to hand with Carneades, who 
with a violent stream (as it were) of his forcible wit and eloquence 
refuted the sect of the Stoics, answered the said Carneades by 
writing, and filled whole books with contradictory assertions 
and arguments against him; insomuch as thereupon he was 
surnamed Calamoboas, which is as much to say, as the lusty 
crier with his pen: and so by all likelihood this manner of 
fighting with a shadow and loud exclaiming in secret, and apart 
by themselves, training these stout praters every day by little 
and little from the frequency and multitude of people, may 
make them in the end more sociable and fitter for company. 
Thus curst curs, after they have spent and discharged their choler 
and anger upon the cudgels or stones which have been thrown 
at them, become thereby more gentle and tractable to men. 
But above all, it were very expedient and profitable for them 
to be always near unto personages for years elder, and in 
authority greater than themselves, and with those to converse; 
for the reverent regard and fear that they have in respect of 
their dignity and gravity, may induce and direct them in time 
and by custom to keep silence; and evermore among those 
exercises heretofore by us specified, this advisement would be 
mingled and interlaced ; That when we are about to speak, and 
that words be ready to run out of our mouth, we say thus unto 

Intemperate Speech or Garrulity 275 

ourselves by way of reasoning: What manner of speech is this 
that is so urgent and presseth so hard to be gone? What ails 
my tongue, that it is so willing to be walking? What good may 
come by the utterance thereof? What harm may ensue by 
concealing it in and holding my peace ? For we must not think 
that our words be like an heavy burden over-loading us, and 
whereof we should think ourselves well eased when we are dis- 
charged of them: for speech remaineth still as well when it is 
uttered as before: but men ought to speak either in the behalf 
of themselves when they stand in need of something, or to 
benefit others, or else to pleasure and recreate one another by 
pleasant devices and discourses (as it were), with salt to mitigate 
the painful travails in actions and worldly affairs, or rather to 
make the same more savoury whiles we are employed therein. 

Now if a speech be neither profitable to him that delivereth 
it, nor necessary for him that heareth it, nor yet carry therewith 
any grace or pleasure; what need is there that it should be 
uttered ? For surely, a man may as soon speak a word in vain, 
as do a thing to no purpose. But above and after all other good 
advertisements in this case, we ought always to have in readiness 
and remembrance this wise saying of Simonides : A man (quoth 
he) may repent many a time for words spoken, but never for a 
word kept in: this also we must think: That exercise is all in 
all, and a matter of that moment and efficacy, that it is able to 
master and conquer everything : considering that men will take 
great pains and be careful; yea, they will endure much sorrow 
for to be rid of an old cough; to chase away the troublesome 
yex or hicket. Besides, taciturnity hath not only this one fair 
property and good virtue, that (as Hippocrates saith) it never 
breedeth thirst; but also that it engendereth no pain, no grief 
nor displeasure, neither is any man bound to render an account 



[If there be any excess in the world that troubleth the repose and 
tranquillity of the spirit, causing our life to be wretched and 
miserable, it is avarice; against which the sages and wise men of 
all ages from time to time have framed sharp and terrible invectives, 
which in sum and effect do shew thus much ; That this covetousness 
and greedy desire of gathering goods is (as it were) the capital city 
and seat- town of all wickedness ; the very sink of sin and receptacle 
of all vices. Now albeit all men with one voice, yea, and the most 
covetous persons of all others do confess as much, yet the heart of 
man is so affectionate a friend to the earth, that needful it is to 
propose and set down divers instructions for to avert the same from 
thence, and to cause it to range and sort with other occupations and 
affairs, more beseeming itself than is the over-curious searching after 
transitory and corruptible things. This is the reason that those 
philosophers who have handled the doctrine as touching manners 
are employed herein: and Plutarch among the rest, who teacheth 
us here in few words with what considerations we ought to be 
furnished and fortified, that we do not permit such a pestilent plague 
as this to seize upon our souls: and therewith he sheweth the 
miseries that befall unto avarice; whereof this is the first and 
principal; That instead of giving contentment, it maketh her slave 
most wretched, and putteth him to the greatest pain and torture in 
the world. And hereupon he interlaceth and inserteth a description 
of three sorts of covetous persons. First, of those who covet things 
rare and dangerous, whereas they should seek after necessaries. 
Secondly, of such as spend nothing, have much, and yet desire more 
and more ; and these he depainteth in all their colours. Thirdly, of 
them that be niggards and base-minded pinch-pennies. Which 
done, he discovereth the second misery of covetous wretches, to 
wit; That avarice doth tyrannise over her caitiff and slave, not 
suffering him to use that which she commanded him to win and get. 
The third is this ; That it causeth him to gather and heap up riches, 
for some promoter or catch-poll, or else for a tyrant, or else for some 
wicked and graceless heir, whose nature and properties he doth 
represent and describe very lively. Afterwards having concluded 
that covetous persons are herein especially miserable; for that the 
one sort of them use not their goods at all, and other abuse the 
same: he prescribeth three remedies against this mischievous 
malady. The first; That those who greedily gape after riches, 
have no more in effect than they who stand contented with that 
which is necessary for nature. The second; That we are not to 


Of Avarice or Covetousness 277 

count them happy who be richly furnished with things unprofitable. 
And the last; That it is virtue wherein we ought to ground and 
seek for contentment; for there it is to be found and not in riches.] 

Hippomachus, a great master of wrestling and such exercises of 
the body, hearing some to praise a certain tall man, high of 
stature, and having long arms and hands, commending him for 
a singular champion, and fit to fight at buffets : A proper fellow 
he were (quoth he) if the garland or prize of the victory were 
hung on high, for to be reached with the hand; semblably it 
may be said unto them who esteem so highly and repute it a 
great felicity to be possessed of much fair lands, to have many 
great and stately houses, to be furnished with mighty masses 
and sums of money, in case felicity were to be bought and sold 
for coin. And yet a man shall see many in the world, chuse 
rather to be rich and wretched withal, than to give their silver 
for to be happy and blessed : but surely it is not silver nor gold 
that can purchase either repose of spirit void of grief and 
anguish, or magnanimity, nor yet settled constancy and resolu- 
tion, confidence, and suffisance, or contentment with our own 
estate. Be a man never so rich, he cannot skill thereby to 
contemn riches, no more than the possession of more than 
enough worketh this in us; That we want not still, and desire 
even things that be superfluous. What other evil and malady 
then doth our wealth and riches rid us from, if it delivereth us 
not from avarice? By drink men quench their thirst, by meat 
they slake their hunger. And he that said : 

Give Hipponax a cloak to keep him warm, 
For cold extreme I shake, and may take harm, 

if there were many clothes hung or cast upon him, would be 

offended therewith and fling them from him; but this their 

strong desire and love of money, it is neither silver nor gold that 

is able to quench: and let a man have never so much, yet he 

coveteth nevertheless to have more still. And well it may be 

verified of riches which one said sometime to an ignorant and 

deceitful physician: 

Your drugs and salves augment my sore, 
They make me sicker than before. 

For riches verily, after that men have once met therewith 
(whereas before they stood in need of bread, of a competent 
house to put their heads in, of mean raiment, and any viands 
that come next hand), fill them now with an impatient desire 
of gold, silver, ivory, emeralds, horses, and hounds, changing 


Plutarch's Morals 

and transporting their natural appetite of things needful and 
necessary, into a disordinate lust to things dangerous, rare, hard 
to be gotten, and unprofitable when they be had. For never is 
any man poor in regard of such things as suffice nature ; never 
doth he take up money upon usury for to buy himself meat, 
cheese, bread, or olives; but one indebteth himself for to build 
a sumptuous and stately house; another runs in debt because 
he would purchase a grove of olive trees that joineth to his own 
land; one is engaged deeply in the usurer's books, by laying 
corn-grounds and wheat-fields to his own domains, another 
because he would be possessed of fruitful vineyards; some are 
indebted with buying mules of Galatia, and others, because they 
would be masters 

Of lusty steeds, to win the prize 

By running in a race, 
With rattling noise of empty coach, 

When it is drawn apace, 

have cast themselves into the bottomless gulf of obligations, 
conditions, covenants, interests, statutes, real gages, and pawns : 
and afterwards it cometh to pass that like as they who drink 
when they be not dry, and eat without a stomach, many times 
cast up by vomit even that which they did eat and drink when 
they were hungry and thirsty; even so, when they will needs 
have such things as be superfluous and to no use, do not enjoy 
the benefit of those things that are needful and necessary indeed. 
Lo, what kind of people these be ! 

As for those who are at no cost, nor will lay out anything, 
and notwithstanding they have much, yet ever covet more; a 
man may rather marvel and wonder at them, if he would but 
remember that which Aristippus was wont to say: He that 
eateth much (quoth he) and drinketh likewise much, and is never 
satisfied nor full, goeth to the physicians, asketh their opinion 
what his disease and strange indisposition of the body might be, 
and withal craveth their counsel for the cure and remedy 
thereof: but if one who hath five fair bedsteads already with the 
furniture thereto belonging, and seeketh to make them ten; and 
having ten tables with their cupboards of plate, will needs buy 
ten more; and for all that he is possessed of fair manors and 
goodly lands, have his bags and coffers full of money, is never the 
better satisfied, but still gapeth after more, breaketh his sleeps, 
devising and casting as he lieth awake how to compass the same, 
and when he hath all, yet is he not full; such an one (I say) never 
thinks that he hath need of a physician to cure his malady or 

Of Avarice or Covetousness 279 

to discourse unto him, from what cause all this doth proceed. 
And verily a man may look, that of those who are thirsty 
ordinarily, he that hath not drunk will be delivered of his thirst 
so soon as he meeteth with drink; but in case such an one as 
evermore drinketh and poureth in still, never giving over, yet 
nevertheless continueth dry and thirsty, we judge him to have 
no need of repletion, but rather of purging and evacuation; 
him (I say) we appoint for to vomit, as being not troubled and 
distempered upon any want, but with some extraordinary heat 
or unkind acrimonies of humours that be within him; even so 
it is with those that seek to get and gather goods: he that is 
bare and poor indeed, will haply give over seeking so soon as he 
hath got him an house to dwell in, or found some treasure, or met 
with a good friend to help him to a sum of money to make clear 
with the usurer, and to be crossed out of his book : but he that 
hath already more than enough and sufficient, and yet craveth 
more, surely it is neither gold nor silver that will cure him, 
neither horses, nor sheep, nor yet beeves will serve his turn; 
need had he of purgation and evacuation, for poverty is not his 
disease, but covetousness and an unsatiable desire of riches, 
proceeding from false judgment and a corrupt opinion that he 
hath, which if a man do not rid away out of his mind, as a 
winding gulf or whirlpool that is cross and overthwart in their 
way, they will never cease to hunt after superfluities, and seem 
to stand in need thereof, (that is to say) to covet those things 
which they know not what to do with. When a physician 
cometh into the chamber of a patient, whom he findeth lying 
along in his bed groaning, and refusing all food, he taketh him 
by the hand, feeleth his pulse, asketh him certain questions, and 
rinding that he hath no ague; This is a disease (quoth he) of 
the mind, and so goeth his way; even so, when we see a worldly- 
minded man altogether set upon his gets and gains, pining away, 
and even consumed with the greedy worm of gathering good, 
weeping, whining, and sighing at expenses, and when any money 
is to go out of his purse, sticking at no pain and trouble, sparing 
for no indignity, no unhonest and indirect means whatsoever, 
nor caring which way he goes to work, whether it be by hook or 
crook, so that he may gain and profit thereby; having choice of 
houses and tenements, lands lying in every country, droves, 
herds, and flocks of cattle, a number of slaves, wardrobes of 
apparel and clothes of all sorts : what shall we say that this man 
is sick of, unless it be the poverty of the soul ? 
As for want of money and goods, one friend (as Menander 

280 Plutarch's Morals 

saith) may cure and help with his bountiful hand; but that 

penury and neediness of the soul all the men in the world, that 

either live at this day or ever were beforetime, are not able to 

satisfy and suffice: and therefore of such Solon said very well: 

No limit set, nor certain bound, men have 
Of their desire to goods, but still they crave. 

For those who are wise and of sound judgment are content with 
that measure and portion which nature hath set down and 
assigned for them; such men know an end, and keep themselves 
within the centre and circumference of their need and necessity 
only. But this is a peculiar property that avarice hath by itself. 
For a covetous desire it is, even repugnant to satiety, and 
hindereth itself that it never can have sufficient, whereas all 
other desires and lusts are aiding and helpful thereto. For no 
man (I trow) that is a glutton forbeareth to eat a good morsel 
of meat for gormandise, nor drunkard abstaineth from drinking 
wine upon an appetite and love that he hath to wine, as these 
covetous wretches do, who spare their money and will not touch 
it, through a desire only that they have of money. And how 
can we otherwise think, but it were a piteous and lamentable 
case, yea and a disease next cousin to mere madness, if a man 
should therefore spare the wearing of a garment, because he is 
ready to chill and quake for cold, or forbear to touch bread, for 
that he is almost hunger-starved; and even so not to handle 
his goods because he loveth them: certes, such a one is in the 
same plight and piteous perplexity that Thrasonides was, who 
in a certain comedy describeth his own miseries: 

At home it is within my power, 

I may enjoy it every hour: 

I wish a thing as if I were 

In raging love, yet I forbear: 

When I have lock'd and seaFd up all, 

Or else put forth by count and tale, 

My coin to brokers for the use, 

Or other factors whom I chuse, 

I plod and plonder still for more, 

I hunt, I seek to fetch in store, 

I chide and brawl with servants mine, 

The husbandman and eke the hine 

I bring to count ; and then anon 

My debtors all I call upon: 

By Dan Apollo now I swear, 

Was any man that earth did bear, 

Whom thou hast ever known or seen, 

In love more wretched to have been ? 

Sophocles being on a time demanded familiarly by one of his 
friends, whether he could yet keep company with a woman if 

Of Avarice or Covetousness 281 

need were: God bless me (quoth he), my good friend, talk no 
more of that, I pray you, I am free from those matters long since, 
and by the benefit of mine old age, I have escaped the servitude 
of such violent and furious mistresses. And verily it is a good 
and gracious gift, that our lusts and appetites should end 
together with our strength and ability, especially in those 
delights and pleasures which, as Alcaeus saith, neither man nor 
woman can well avoid. But this is not to be found in avarice 
and desire of riches; for she, like a curst, sharp, and shrewd 
quean, forceth indeed a man to get and gather, but she forbiddeth 
him withal to use and enjoy the same; she stirreth up and 
provoketh his lust, but she denieth him all pleasure. I remem- 
ber that in old time Stratonicus taxed and mocked the Rhodians 
for their wasteful and superfluous expenses in this manner: 
They build sumptuously (quoth he), as if they were immortal 
and should never die; but they fare at their boards as though 
they had but a small while to live. But these covetous misers 
gather wealth together like mighty magnificoes, but they spend 
like beggarly mechanicals; they endure the pain and travail of 
getting, and taste no pleasure of the enjoying. 

Demades the orator came one day to visit Phocion, and 
found him at dinner; but seeing but a little meat before him 
upon the table, and the same nothing fine and dainty, but 
coarse and simple: I marvel (quoth he), Phocion, how you 
can take up with so short a dinner and so small a pittance, 
considering the pains you do endure in managing the affairs of 
state and commonwealth. As for Demades, he dealt indeed 
with government, and was a great man in the city with the 
people, but it was all for his belly, and to furnish a plentiful 
board, insomuch as, supposing that the city of Athens could not 
yield him revenue and provision sufficient for to maintain his 
excessive gormandise, he laid for cates and victuals out of 
Macedon, whereupon Antipater, when he saw him an old man 
with a wrinkled and withered face, said pleasantly: That he 
had nothing left now but his paunch and his tongue, much like 
unto a sheep, or some other beast killed for sacrifice when all is 
eaten besides. But thou, most unhappy and wretched miser, 
who would not make a wonder at thee, considering that thou 
canst lead so base and beggarly a life, without society of men 
or courtesy to thy neighbours, not giving ought to any person, 
shewing no kindness to thy friends, no bounty nor magnificence 
to the commonwealth, yet still doth afflict thy poor self, lie 
awake all the night long, toil and moil like a drudge and hireling 

282 Plutarch's Morals 

thyself, hire other labourers for day-wages, lie in the wind for 
inheritances, speak men fair in hope to be their heir, and debase 
thyself to all the world, and care not to whom thou cap and knee 
for gain, having, I say, so sufficient means otherwise to live at 
ease (to wit, thy niggardise and pinching parsimony), whereby 
thou mayst be dispensed for doing just nothing. It is reported 
of a certain Byzantine, who finding an adulterer in bed with his 
wife, who though she were but foul, yet was ill-favoured enough, 
said unto him: miserable caitiff, what necessity hath driven 
thee thus to do? what needs Sapragoras dowry? well, go to: 
thou takes t great pains, poor wretch, thou fillest and stirrest the 
lead, thou kindlest the fire also underneath it. 

Necessary it is in some sort that kings and princes should 
seek for wealth and riches, that these governors also and deputies 
under them should be great gatherers, yea, and those also who 
reach at the highest places and aspire to rule and sovereign 
dignities in great states and cities ; all these (I say) have need 
perforce to heap up gross sums of money, to the end that for 
their ambition, their proud port, pomp, and vain-glorious 
humour, they might make sumptuous feasts, give largesses, 
retain a guard about their persons, send presents abroad to 
other states, maintain and wage whole armies, buy slaves to 
combat and fight at sharp to the outrance: but thou makest 
thyself so much ado, thou troublest and tormentest both body 
and mind, living like an oyster or a shell-snail, and for to pinch 
and spare art content to undergo and endure all pain and travail, 
taking no pleasure nor delight in the world afterwards, no more 
than the bain-keeper's poor ass, which carrying billets and 
faggots of dry brush and sticks to kindle fire and to heat the 
stouphs, is evermore full of smoke, soot, ashes and cinders ; but 
hath no benefit at all of the bain, and is never bathed, washed, 
warmed, rubbed, scoured and made clean. Thus much I speak 
in reproach and disdain of this miserable ass-like avarice, this 
base raping and scraping together in manner of ants or 

Now there is another kind of covetousness more savage and 
beast-like, which they profess who backbite and slander, raise 
malicious imputations, forge false wills and testaments, lie in 
wait for heritages, cog and cozen, and intermeddle in all matters, 
will be seen in everything, know all men's states, busy them- 
selves with many cares and troubles, count upon their fingers 
how many friends they have yet living, and when they have 
all done, receive no fruition or benefit by all the goods which 

Of Avarice or Covetousness 283 

they have gotten together from all parts, with their cunning 
casts and subtle shifts. And therefore, like as we have in 
greater hatred and detestation, vipers, the venomous flies 
cantharides, and the stinging spiders called philangia and 
tarantale, than either bears or lions, for that they kill folk and 
sting them to death; but receive no good or benefit at all by 
them when they are dead; even so be these wretches more 
odious and worthy to be hated of us, who by their miserable 
parsimony and pinching do mischief, than those who by their 
riot and wastefulness be hurtful to a commonweal, because they 
take and catch from others that which they themselves neither 
will nor know how to use. Whereupon it is that such as these, 
when they have gotten abundance, and are in manner full, rest 
them for a while, and do no more violence as it were in time of 
truce and surcease of hostility; much after the manner as 
Demosthenes said unto them who thought that Demades had 
given over all his lewdness and knavery : (quoth he), you see 
him now full as lions are, who when they have filled their bellies, 
prey no more for the lice until they be hungry again : but such 
covetous wretches as be employed in government of civil affairs, 
and that for no profit nor pleasure at all which they intend, 
those, I say, never rest nor make holiday, they allow themselves 
no truce nor cessation from gathering and heaping more together 
still, as being evermore empty, and have always need of all 
things though they have all. 

But some man perhaps will say: These men (I assure you) 
do save and lay up goods in store for their children and heirs 
after their death, unto whom whiles they live they will part 
with nothing: If that be so, I can compare them very well to 
those mice and cats in gold mines, which feed upon the gold ore, 
and lick up all the golden sand that the mines yield, so that men 
cannot come by the gold there before they be dead and cut up 
in manner of anatomies. But tell me (I pray you) wherefore are 
these so willing to treasure up so much money and so great 
substance, and leave the same to their children, inheritors and 
successors after them? I verily believe to this end, that those 
children and heirs also of theirs should keep the same still for 
others likewise, and so to pass from hand to hand by descent 
of many degrees; like as earthen conduct-pipes, by which 
water is conveyed into some cistern, withhold and retain none of 
all the water that passeth through them, but do transmit and 
send all away from them, each one to that which is next, and 
reserve none to themselves; thus do they until some arise from 


Plutarch's Morals 

without, a mere stranger to the house, one that is a sycophant or 
very tyrant, who shall cut off this keeper of that great stock and 
treasure, and when he hath dispatched and made a hand of him, 
drive and turn the course of all this wealth and riches out of the 
usual channel another way; or at leastwise until it fall into the 
hands (as commonly men say it doth) of the most wicked and 
ungracious imp of that race, who will disperse and scatter that 
which others have gathered, who will consume and devour 
all unthriftily which his predecessors have gotten and spared 
wickedly: for not only as Euripides saith: 

Those children wasteful prove and bad, 
Who servile slaves for parents had, 

but also covetous carls and pinching penny-fathers leave children 
behind them that be loose and riotous and spendthrifts; like 
as Diogenes by way of mockery said upon a time : That it were 
better to be a Megarian's ram than his son: for wherein they 
would seem to instruct and inform their children, they spoil and 
mar them clean, ingrafting into their hearts a desire and love 
of money, teaching them to be covetous and base-minded 
pinch-pennies, laying the foundation (as it were) in their heirs of 
some strong place or fort, wherein they may surely guard and 
keep their inheritance. 

And what good lessons and precepts be these which they 
teach them: Gain and spare, my son, get and save; think with 
thyself and make thine account that thou shalt be esteemed in 
the world according to thy wealth and not otherwise. But 
surely this not to instruct a child, but rather to knit up fast 
or sew up the mouth of a purse that it may hold and keep the 
better whatsoever is put into it. This only is the difference, that 
a purse or money-bag becometh foul, sullied and ill-savouring 
after that silver is put into it; but the children of covetous 
persons, before they receive their patrimonies or attain to any 
riches, are filled already even by their fathers with avarice, and 
a hungry desire after their substance: and verily such children 
thus nurtured, reward their parents again for their schooling 
with a condign salary and recompense, in that they love them 
not because they shall receive much one day by them, but hate 
them rather for that they have nothing from them in present 
possession already, for having learned this lesson of them; To 
esteem nothing in the world in comparison of wealth and riches, 
and to aim at nought else in the whole course of their life, but 
to gather a deal of goods together, they repute the lives of their 

Of Avarice or Covetousness 285 

parents to be a block in their way, they wish in heart that their 
heads were well laid, they do what they can to shorten their 
lives, making this reckoning; That how much time is added to 
their old age, so much they lose of their youthful years. And 
this is the reason why during the life of their fathers, secretly and 
underhand they steal (after a sort, by snatches) their pleasure, 
and enjoy the same; they will make semblance as if it came 
from other, when they give away money and distribute it among 
their friends, or otherwise spend it in their delights ; whiles they 
catch it privily from under the very wing of their parents, and 
when they go to hear and take out their lessons, they will be 
sure to pick their purses if they can, before they go away; but 
after their parents be dead and gone, when they have gotten 
into their hands the keys of their coffers and signets of their 
bags, then the case is altered, and they enter into another course 
and fashion of life : you shall have my young masters then put 
on a grave and austere countenance, they will not seem to laugh, 
nor be spoken to, or acquainted with anybody; there is no talk 
now of anointing the body for any exercise, the racket is cast 
aside, the tennis court no more haunted, no wrestling practised, 
no going to the schools either of the Academy or Lyceum, to 
hear the lectures and disputations of professors and philosophers. 
But now the officers and servants be called to an audit and 
account; now they are examined what they have under their 
hands; now the writings, bills, obligations, and deeds are sought 
up and perused; now they fall to argue and reason with their 
receivers, stewards, factors, and debtors; so sharp-set they are 
to their negotiations and affairs; so full of cares and business 
that they have no leisure to take their dinners or noon meals; 
and if they sup, they cannot intend to go into the bain or hot- 
house before it be late in the night; the bodily exercises wherein 
they were brought up and trained in be laid down ; no swimming 
nor bathing any more in the river Dirce; all such matters be 
cast behind and clean forgotten. Now if a man say to one of 
these: Will you go and hear such a philosopher read a lecture, 
or make a sermon ? How can I go ? (will he say again) I have no 
while since my father's death. miserable and wretched man, 
what hath he left unto thee of all his goods comparable to that 
which he hath bereaved thee of, to wit, repose and liberty: 
but it is not thy father so much, as his riches flowing round about 
thee, that environeth and compasseth thee so, as it hath gotten 
the mastery over thee; this hath set foot upon thy throat, 

286 Plutarch's Morals 

this hath conquered thee; like unto that shrewd wife in 

Who burns a man without a match 

Or brand of scorching fire, 
And driveth him to gray old age 

Before that time require, 

causing thy soul (as it were) to be full of rivels and hoary hairs 
before time, bringing with it carking cares and tedious travels 
proceeding from the love of money, and a world of affairs without 
any repose, whereby that alacrity, cheerfulness, worship, and 
sociable courtesy which ought to be in a man are decayed and 
faded clean to nothing. 

But what mean you, sir, by all this ? (will some one haply say 
unto me). See you not how there be some that bestow their 
wealth liberally with credit and reputation? Unto whom I 
answer thus : Have you never heard what Aristotle said ? That 
as some there are who have no use at all of their goods, so there 
be others who abuse the same; as if he should say: Neither 
the one nor other was seemly and as it ought to be: for as those 
get neither profit nor honour by their riches, so these sustain 
loss and shame thereby. But let us consider a little what is the 
use of these riches which are thus much esteemed: Is it not (I 
pray you) to have those things which are necessary for nature ? 
but these who are so rich and wealthy above the rest, what 
have they more to content nature than those who live in a mean 
and competent estate ? Certes, riches (as Theophrastus saith) is 
not so great a matter that we should love and admire it so much, 
if it be true that Callias, the wealthiest person in all Athens, and 
Ismenias, the richest citizen of Thebes, use the same things that 
Socrates and Epaminondas did. For like as Agathon banished 
the flute, cornet, and such other pipes from the solemn feasts 
of men, and sent them to women in their solemnities, supposing 
that the discourses of men who are present at the table are 
sufficient to entertain mirth; even so may he as well rid away 
out of houses, hangings, coverlets and carpets of purple, costly 
and sumptuous tables, and all such superfluities, who seeth that 
the great rich worldlings use the very same that poorer men 
do. I would not as Hesiodus saith: 

That plough or helm should hang in smoke to dry, 
Or painful tillage now be laid aside, 
Nor works of ox and mule for ever die, 
Who serve our turns to draw, to till, to ride; 

but ra1 

Of Avarice or Covetousness 287 

it rather that these goldsmiths, turners, gravers, perfumers, 
and cooks would be chased and sent away, forasmuch as this 
were indeed an honest and civil banishment of unprofitable 
artificers as foreigners that may be spared out of a city. 
Now if it be so, that things requisite for the necessity of nature 
be common as well to the poor as the rich, and that riches do 
vaunt and stand so much upon nothing else but superfluities, 
and that Scopas the Thessalian is worthily commended in this; 
that being requested to give away and part with somewhat of 
his household stuff which he might spare and had no need of: 
Why (quoth he), in what things else consisteth the felicity of 
those who are reputed happy and fortunate in this world above 
other men, but in these superfluities that you seem to ask at 
my hands, and not in such as be necessary and requisite? If 
it be so, I say, see that you be not like unto him that praiseth 
a pomp and solemn shew of plays and games more than life 
indeed, which standeth upon things necessary. The procession 
and solemnity of the Bacchanals which was exhibited in our 
country, was wont in old time to be performed after a plain 
and homely manner, merrily and with great joy: You should 
have seen there one carrying a little barrel of wine, another a 
branch of a vine tree ; after him comes one drawing and plucking 
after him a goat ; then f olloweth another with a basket of dried 
figs ; and last of all one that bare in shew phallus, that is to say, 
the resemblance of the genital member of a man : but nowadays 
all these ceremonies are despised, neglected, and in manner not 
at all to be seen, such a train there is of those that carry vessels 
of gold and silver, so many sumptuous and costly robes, such 
stately chariots richly set out are driven and drawn with brave 
steeds most gallantly dight, besides the pageants, dumb-shews 
and masks, that they hide and obscure the ancient and true 
pomp according to the first institution; and even so it is in 
riches ; the things that be necessary and serve for use and profit 
are overwhelmed and covered with needless toys and superfluous 
vanities, and I assure you the most part of us be like unto young 
Telemachus, who for want of knowledge and experience, or 
rather indeed for default of judgment and discretion, when he 
beheld Nestor's house furnished with beds, tables, hangings, 
tapestry, apparel, and well provided also of sweet and pleasant 
wines, never reckoned the master of the house happy for having 
so good provision of such necessary and profitable things: but 
being in Menelaus his house, and seeing there store of ivory, 
gold and silver, and the metal electrum, he was ravished and 

288 Plutarch's Morals 

in an ecstasy with admiration thereof, and brake out in these 

Like unto this, the palace all 

Within I judge to be, 
Of Jupiter, that mighty god, 

Who dwells in azure sky: 
How rich, how fair, how infinite 

Are all things which I see! 
My heart, as I do them behold, 

Is ravish'd wondrously. 

But Socrates or Diogenes would have said thus rather: 

How many wretched things are here? 

How needless all and vain ? 
When I them view, I laugh thereat, 

Of them I am not fain. 

And what sayst thou, foolish and vain sot as thou art ? Whereas 
thou shouldest have taken from thy very wife her purple, her 
jewels and gaudy ornaments, to the end that she might no more 
long for such superfluity, nor run a madding after foreign 
vanities, far fetched and dear bought; dost thou contrariwise 
embellish and adorn thy house, like a theatre, scaffold and stage 
to make a goodly sight for those that come into the shew-place ? 
Lo, wherein lieth the felicity and happiness that riches bringeth, 
making a trim shew before those who gaze upon them, and to 
testify and report to others what they have seen : set this aside 
(that they be not shewed to all the world) there is nothing at all 
therein to reckon. But it is not so with temperance, with 
philosophy, with the true knowledge of the gods, so far forth as 
is meet and behoveful to be known, for these are the same still 
and all one, although every man attain not thereto but all others 
-be ignorant thereof. This piety (I say) and religion hath always 
a great light of her own and resplendent beams proper to itself, 
wherewith it doth shine in the soul, evermore accompanied with 
a certain joy that never ceaseth to take contentment in her own 
good within, whether any one see it or no, whether it be un- 
known to gods and men or no, it skilleth not. Of this kind and 
nature is virtue indeed, and truth, the beauty also of the 
mathematical sciences, to wit, geometry and astrology; unto 
which who will think that the gorgeous trappings and caparisons, 
the brooches, collars and carkans of riches are any ways com- 
parable, which (to say a truth) are no better than jewels and 
ornaments good to trim young brides and set out maidens for 
to be seen and looked at? For riches, if no man do regard, 
behold, and set their eyes on them (to say a truth), is a blind 

Of Avarice or Covetousness 289 

thing of itself , and sendeth no light at all nor rays from it; for 
certainly say that a rich man dine and sup privately alone, or 
with his wife and some inward and familiar friends, he troubleth 
not himself about furnishing of his table with many services, 
dainty dishes, and festival fare; he stands not so much upon his 
golden cups and goblets, but useth those things that be ordinary, 
which go about every day and come next hand, as well vessel 
as viands ; his wife sits by his side and bears him company, not 
decked and hung with jewels and spangles of gold, not arrayed 
in purple, but in plain attire and simply clad; but when he 
makes a feast, (that is to say) sets out a theatre wherein the 
pomps and shews are to meet and make a jangling noise together, 
when the plays are to be represented of his riches, and the 
solemn train thereof to be brought in place; then comes abroad 
his brave furniture indeed; then he fetcheth out of the ship 
his fair chaufers and goodly pots; then bringeth he forth his 
rich three-footed tables; then come abroad the lamps, candle- 
sticks and branches of silver; the lights are disposed in order 
about the cups; the cup-bearers, skinkers and tasters are 
changed ; all places are newly dight and covered ; all things are 
then stirred and removed that saw no sun long before; the 
silver plate, the golden vessels, and those that be set and 
enriched with precious stones; to conclude, now there is no shew 
else but of riches; at such a time they confess themselves and 
will be known wealthy. But all this while, whether a rich man 
sup alone, or make a feast, temperance is away and true con- 



[Wisely said one (whosoever it was), That to banish amity and 
friendship from among men were as great hurt to the society of 
mankind as to deprive them of the light and heat of the sun : which 
being verified and found true in the whole course of this life, and in 
the maintenance of all estates ; not without great cause nature hath 
cast and sprinkled the seed thereof in the generation and nourish- 
ment of a race and lineage, whereof she giveth evident testimonies 
in brute beasts, the better to move and incite us to our duty. 
That we may see, therefore, this precious seed and grain of amity, 
how it doth flower and fructify in the world, we must begin at the 
love and natural kindness of fathers and mothers to their children : 
for if this be well kept and maintained, there proceed from it an 
infinite number of contentments which do much assuage and ease 
the inconveniences and discommodities of our life. And Plutarch, 
entering into this matter, sheweth first in generality: That men 
learn (as it were) in the school of brute beasts, with what affection 
they should beget, nourish, and bring up their children : afterward 
he doth particularise thereof, and enrich the same argument by 
divers examples. But for that he would not have us think that he 
extolled dumb beasts above man and woman, he observeth and 
setteth down very well the difference that is of amities, discoursing in 
good and modest terms as touching the generation and nouriture of 
children, and briefly by the way representeth unto us the miserable 
entrance of man into this race upon earth, where he is to run his 
course. Which done, he proveth that the nourishing of infants 
hath no other cause and reason but the love of fathers and mothers ; 
he discovereth the source of this affection; and for a conclusion, 
sheweth that what defect and fault soever may come between and 
be meddled among, yet it cannot altogether abolish the same.] 

That which moved the Greeks at first to put over the decision 
of their controversies to foreign judges, and to bring into their 
country strangers to be their umpires, was the distrust and 
diffidence that they had one in another, as if they confessed 
thereby that justice was indeed a thing necessary for man's life, 
but it grew not among them: And is not the case even so as 
touching certain questions disputable in philosophy? for the 
determining whereof philosophers (by reason of the sundry and 


The Natural Love of Parents 291 

divers opinions which are among them) have appealed to the 
nature of brute beasts, as it were into a strange city, and 
remitted the deciding thereof to their properties and affections, 
according to kind, as being neither subject to partial favour, 
nor yet corrupt, depraved, and polluted. Now surely a common 
reproach this must needs be to man's naughty nature and lewd 
behaviour; That when we are in doubtful question concerning 
the greatest and most necessary points pertaining to this present 
life of ours, we should go and search into the nature of horses, 
dogs, and birds for resolution; namely, how we ought to make 
our marriages, how to get children, and how to rear and nourish 
them after they be born, and as if there were no sign (in manner) 
or token of nature imprinted in ourselves, we must be fain to 
allege the passions, properties, and affections of brute beasts, 
and to produce them for witnesses, to argue and prove how 
much in our life we transgress and go aside from the rule of 
nature, when at our first beginning and entrance into this 
world, we find such trouble, disorder, and confusion; for in those 
dumb beasts beforesaid, nature doth retain and keep that which 
is her own and proper, simple, entire, without corruption or 
alteration by any strange mixture; whereas contrariwise, it 
seemeth that the nature of man, by discourse of their reason 
and custom together, is mingled and confused with so many 
extravagant opinions and judgments, set from all parts abroad 
(much like unto oil that cometh into perfumers' hands), that 
thereby it is become manifold variable, and in every one several 
and particular, and doth not retain that which the own indeed, 
proper and peculiar to itself; neither ought we to think it a 
strange matter and a wonderful that brute beasts, void of 
reason, should come nearer unto nature, and follow her steps 
better, than men endued with the gift of reason : for surely the 
very senseless plants herein surpass those beasts beforesaid, and 
observe better the instinct of nature; for considering that they 
neither conceive anything by imagination, nor have any motion, 
affection or inclination at all, so verily their appetite (such as 
it is) varieth not nor stirreth to and fro out of the compass of 
nature, by means whereof they continue and abide as if they 
were kept in and bound within close prison, holding on still in 
one and the same course, and not stepping once out of that way 
wherein nature doth lead and conduct them: as for beasts, they 
have not any such great portion of reason to temper and mollify 
their natural properties, neither any great subtlety of sense and 
nceit, nor much desire of liberty; but having many instincts, 

292 Plutarch's Morals 

inclinations, and appetites, not ruled by reason, they break out 
by the means thereof otherwhiles, wandering astray, and running 
up and down, to and fro, howbeit, for the most part, not very 
far out of order, but they take sure hold of nature; much like 
a ship which lieth in the road at anchor, well may she dance and 
be rocked up and down, but she is not carried away into the 
deep at the pleasure of winds and waves; or much after the 
manner of an ass or hackney, travelling with bit and bridle, 
which go not out of the right and straight way, wherein the 
master or rider guideth them; whereas in man, even reason 
herself, the mistress that ruleth and commandeth all, findeth 
out new cuts (as it were) and by-ways, making many starts and 
excursions at her pleasure to and fro, now here, now there; 
whereupon it is that she leaveth no plain and apparent print of 
nature's tracks and footing. 

Consider, I pray you, in the first place the marriages (if I may 
so term them) of dumb beasts and reasonless creatures; and 
namely how therein they follow precisely the rule and direction 
of nature. To begin withal; they stand not upon those laws 
that provide against such as marry not, but lead a single life; 
neither make they reckoning of the acts which lay a penalty 
upon those that be late ere they enter into wedlock, like as the 
citizens under Lycurgus and Solon, who stood in awe of the said 
statutes; they fear not to incur the infamy which followed those 
persons that were barren and never had children; neither do 
they regard and seek after the honours and prerogatives which 
they attained who were fathers of three children, like as many 
of the Romans do at this day, who enter into the state of 
matrimony, wed wives and beget children, not to the end that 
they might have heirs to inherit their lands and goods, but that 
they might themselves be inheritors and capable of dignities and 
immunities. But to proceed unto more particulars, the male 
afterwards doth deal with the female in the act of generation 
not at all times; for that the end of their conjunction and 
going together is not gross pleasure so much as the engendering 
of young and the propagation of their kind : and therefore at a 
certain season of the year, to wit, the very prime of the spring, 
when as the pleasant winds so apt for generation do gently blow, 
and the temperature of the air is friendly unto breeders, cometh 
the female full lovingly and kindly toward her fellow the male, 
even of her own accord and motion (as it were), trained by the 
hand of that secret instinct and desire in nature; and for her 
own part, she doth what she can to woo and solicit him to 

The Natural Love of Parents 293 

regard her, as well by the sweet scent of her flesh as also by a 
special and peculiar ornament and beauty of her body, shewing 
herself fresh and cheerful, full of dew and verdure of green 
herbs, pure and neat, I warrant you; in this manner doth she 
present herself unto the male and courteth him : now when she 
perceives once that she is sped and hath conceived by him, she 
leaveth him and retireth apart in good sort full decently; and 
then her whole care is to provide for that which she goeth 
withal, forecasting how to be delivered of it in due time, and 
bethinking how to save, preserve and rear it when it is fallen 
and brought forth. And certes, it is not possible to express 
sufficiently and worthily the particulars that are done by these 
dumb creatures (but only this, that everything proceedeth from 
the tender love and affection which they have to their young 
ones) in providence, in patience, in abstinence. 

We all acknowledge the bee to be wise, we call her so, we 
celebrate her name for producing and working so diligently that 
yellow honey, yea, and we natter in praising her, feeling as we 
do the sweetness of the said honey, how it tickleth and con- 
tenteth our tongue and taste; and all this while what one is 
there of us that maketh any account of the wisdom, wit, and 
artificial subtlety that other creatures shew, as well in the 
bringing forth their young as the fostering and nouriture of 
them? for first and foremost do but consider the sea-bird 
called alcyon, no sooner doth she perceive herself to be knit 
with egg but she falleth presently to build her nest, she gathereth 
together the chine-bones of a certain sea-fish which the Greeks 
call fiiXovrj, that is to say, the sea-needle; these she coucheth, 
plaiteth, windeth and interlaceth one within another, so 
artificially working the same and weaving them close together 
in a round and large form, after the manner of a fisher's leap or 
weel net; and when she hath knit and fortified the same exactly 
with many courses of the said bones driven and united jointly 
together in good order, she exposeth it full against inundation 
and dashing of the sea waves, to the end that the superficial 
outside of the work, beaten upon gently and by little and little 
with the water, being thickened and felted thereby, might be 
more solid and firm, and so it proveth indeed; for so hard it 
groweth by this means that scarcely any stone can crush it, or 
edged instrument of iron cleave it; but that which is yet more 
wonderful, the mouth and entry of the said nest is composed 
and wrought proportionably just to the measure and bigness of 
"le bird alcyon aforesaid, so as no creature bigger or less than 

294 Plutarch's Morals 

herself, no nor the very sea (as men say) nor the least thing in 
the world can get into it. And will you see, moreover, what 
kindness and natural affection the sea-weesils or sea-dogs do 
shew unto their little ones ? They breed their young whelps or 
kitlings alive within their bellies, and when they list, let them 
forth and suffer them to run abroad for relief and to get their 
food, and afterwards receive them into their bodies again, en- 
closing them whiles they be asleep themselves, cherishing them 
couched in their bowels and womb. The she-bear, a most fell, 
savage and cruel beast, bringeth forth her young whelps without 
form or fashion, unknit and unjointed, having no distinct limbs 
or members to be seen; howbeit with her tongue, as it were with 
a tool and instrument for the purpose, she keepeth such a licking 
of them, she formeth and fashioneth those membranes wherein 
they were lapped in her womb, in such sort that she seemeth not 
only to have brought forth her young, but also to have wrought 
them afterwards workman-like to their shape and proportion. 
As for that lion which Homer describeth in this wise : 

Who leading forth his tender whelps 

To seek abroad for prey 
In forest wild ; no sooner meets 

With hunters in the way, 
But looking stern with bended brows 

Which cover both his eyes, 
He makes a stand, and them affronts 

In fierce and threat'ning wise : 

think you not by this description that he resembleth one who 
is bent to capitulate and stand upon terms of composition with 
the hunters for to save the life of his little ones? To speak 
in a word, this tender love and affection of beasts toward their 
young maketh them that otherwise be timorous, hardy and 
bold; those that be slow and idle by nature, laborious and 
painful; and such as of themselves are greedy and ravenous, to 
be spare and temperate in their feeding, like as the bird whereof 
the same Homer speaketh: 

Which brings in mouth unto her nest, 

Such food as she abroad 
Could get to feed her naked young, 

And doth herself defraud. 

For content she is even with her own hunger to nourish her 
little ones, and the same food or bait that she hath for them, 
being so near as it is unto her own craw and gesier, she holdeth 
close and fast in her bill, for fear lest she might swallow it down 
the throat ere she were aware: 

The Natural Love of Parents 295 

Or like the bitch running about 

Her young whelps, at the sight 
Of strangers, bays and barks apace, 

And ready is to fight. 

No doubt the fear which she hath lest her little one should take 
harm redoubleth her courage, and maketh her more hardy and 
angry than before : as for the partridges, when they be laid for 
by the fowler, together with their covey of young birds, they 
suffer them to fly away as well as they can, and make shift to 
save themselves, but the old rowens full subtilly seem to wait 
the coming of the said hunters, abiding until they approach 
near unto them, and by keeping about their feet, train them 
still away after them, ready ever as it were to be caught; now 
when the fowler shall seem to reach unto them with his hand, 
they will run a little or take a short flight from him, and then 
they stay again, putting him in new hope of his prey and booty, 
which every foot he thinketh to take with his hand : thus they 
play mock-holiday with the fowlers, and yet with some danger 
to themselves for the safety of their young, until they have 
trained them a great way off, who sought for their lives. Our 
hens which we keep about our houses so ordinarily, and have 
daily in our eyes, how carefully do they look unto their young 
chickens whiles they receive some under their wings, which they 
spread and hold open for the nonce that they may creep in, 
others they suffer to mount upon their backs, gently giving them 
leave to climb and get up on every side, and this they do not 
without great joy and contentment, which they testify by a 
kind of clocking and special noise that they make at such a time ; 
if when they be alone without their chickens, and have no fear 
but for themselves, a dog or a serpent come in their way, they 
fly from them ; let their brood be about them when such a danger 
is presented, it is wonderful how ready they will be to defend 
the same, yea, and to fight for them, even above their power. 

Do we think now that nature hath imprinted such affections 
and passions in these living creatures, for the great care that 
she hath to maintain the race and posterity (as it were) of hens, 
dogs, or bears; or do we not rather make this construction of 
it, that she shameth, pricketh, and woundeth men thereby when 
we reason and discourse thus within ourselves, that these things 
be good examples for as many as follow them, and the reproaches 
of those that have no sense or feeling of natural affection; by 
which no doubt they do blame and accuse the nature of man 
only, as if she alone were not affectionate without some hire 

296 Plutarch's Morals 

and reward, nor could skill of love but for gain and profit? for 
admired he was in the theatres that thus spake first: 

For hope of gain one man will love another, 
Take it away, what one will love his brother? 

This is the reason (according to the opinion and doctrine of 
Epicurus) that the father affecteth his son, the mother is tender 
over her child, and children likewise are kind unto their parents : 
but set case that brute beasts could both speak and understand 
language, in some open theatre, and that one called to meet 
together a sufficient assembly of beeves, horses, dogs and fowls, 
certes, if their voices were demanded upon this point now in 
question, he would set down in writing and openly pronounce, 
that neither bitches loved their whelps, nor mares their foals, 
hens their chickens, and other fowls their little birds in respect 
of any reward, but freely and by the instinct of nature: and 
this would be found a true verdict of his, justified and verified 
by all those passions and affections which are observed in them : 
and what a shame and infamy unto mankind is this to grant 
and avouch, that the act of generation in brute beasts, their 
conception, their breeding, their painful delivery of their young, 
and the careful feeding and cherishing of them, be nature's 
works merely, and duties of gratuity; and contrariwise that in 
men they be pawns given them for security of interest, hires, 
gages, and earnest pennies respective to some profit and gain 
which they draw after them ? But surely as this project is not 
true, so it is not worth the hearing, for nature verily as in savage 
plants and trees, to wit, wild vines, wild fig-trees, and wild 
olives, she doth ingenerate certain raw and unperfect rudiments 
(such as they be) of good and kind fruits; so she hath created in 
brute beasts a natural love and affection to their young, though 
the same be not absolute nor fully answerable to the rule of 
justice, nor yet able to pass farther than the bonds and limits 
of necessity. 

As for man, a living creature, endued and adorned with reason, 
created and made for a civil society, whom she hath brought 
into the world for to observe laws and justice, to serve, honour 
and worship the gods, to found cities and govern common- 
wealths, and therein to exercise and perform all offices of 
bounty : him she hath bestowed upon noble, generous, fair and 
fruitful seeds of all these things, to wit, a kind love and tender 
affection toward his children; and these she followeth still, and 
persisteth therein, which she infused together with the first 

The Natural Love of Parents 297 

principles and elements that went to the frame of his body and 
soul: for nature being every way perfect and exquisite, and 
namely in this inbred love toward infants, wherein there 
wanteth nothing that is necessary, neither from it is ought to be 
taken away as superfluous; It hath nothing (as Erasistratus 
was wont to say) vain, frivolous, and unprofitable, nothing 
inconstant, and shaking to and fro, inclining now one way, and 
then another. For in the first place, as touching the generation 
of man, who is able to express her prudence sufficiently ? neither 
haply may it stand with the rule of decent modesty to be over- 
curious and exquisite in delivering the proper names and terms 
thereto belonging: for those natural parts serving in that act of 
generation and conception, secret as they be and hidden, so they 
neither can well nor would willingly be named, but the com- 
position and framing thereof, so aptly made for the purpose, 
the disposition and situation likewise so convenient, we ought 
rather to conceive in our mind than utter in speech. 

Leaving therefore those privy members to our private 
thoughts, pass we to the confection, disposition and distribution 
of the milk, which is sufficient to shew most evidently her 
providence, industry, and diligence; for the superfluous portion 
of blood which remaineth in a woman's body, over and above 
that which serveth for the use whereunto it is ordained, floating 
up and down within her afterwards, for defect or feebleness of 
spirits wandereth (as it were) to and fro, and is a burden to her 
body; but at certain set times and days, to wit, in every 
monthly revolution, nature is careful and diligent to open 
certain sluices and conducts, by which the said superfluous 
blood doth void and pass away, whereupon she doth not only 
purge and lighten all the body besides, but also cleanseth the 
matrice, and maketh it like a piece of ground brought in order 
and temper, apt to receive the plough, and desirous of the seed 
after it in due season: now when it hath once conceived and 
retained the said seed, so as the same take root and be knit, 
presently it draweth itself straight and close together round, 
and holdeth the conception within it; for the navel (as Demo- 
critus saith) being the first thing framed within the matrice, 
and serving instead of an anchor against the waving and wan- 
dering of it to and fro, holdeth sure the fruit conceived, which 
both now groweth and hereafter is to be delivered (as it were) 
by a sure cable and strong bough, then also it stoppeth and 
shutteth up the said riverets and passages of those monthly 
urgations; and taking the foresaid blood, which otherwise 

2 9 8 

Plutarch's Morals 

would run and void by those pipes and conducts, it maketh use 
thereof for to nourish, and (as it were) to water the infant, which 
beginneth by this time to take some consistence and receive 
shape and form, so long, until a certain number of days which 
are necessary for the full growth thereof within be expired; at 
which time it had need to remove from thence for a kind of 
nutriment elsewhere in another place; and then diverting the 
said course of blood with all dexterity and a skilful hand (no 
gardener nor fountainer in drawing of his trenches and channels 
with all his cunning so artificial), and employing it from one 
use to another, she hath certain cisterns (as it were) or fountain- 
heads prepared of purpose from a running source most ready 
to receive that liquor of blood quickly, and not without some 
sense of pleasure and contentment; but withal, when it is 
received, they have a power and faculty, by a mild heat of the 
natural spirits within them, and with a delicate and feminine 
tenderness, to concoct, digest, change and convert it into 
another nature and quality, for that the paps have within them 
naturally the like temperature and disposition answerable unto 
it: now these teats which spout out milk from the cocks of a 
conduct, are so framed and disposed that it floweth not forth 
all at once, neither do they send it away suddenly: but nature 
hath so placed the dug, that as it endeth one way in a spongeous 
kind of flesh full of small pipes, and made of purpose to transmit 
the milk, and let it distil gently by many little pores and secret 
passages, so it yieldeth a nipple in manner of a faucet, very fit 
and ready for the little babe's mouth, about which to nuzzle 
and nudgel with its pretty lips it taketh pleasure, and loveth to 
be tugging and lugging of it; but to no purpose and without 
any fruit or profit at all had nature provided such tools and 
instruments for to engender and bring forth a child ; to no end 
(I say) had she taken so good order, used so great industry, 
diligence and forecast, if withal she had not imprinted in the 
heart of mothers a wonderful love and affection, yea, and an 
extraordinary care over the fruit of their womb, when it is born 
into the world : for 

Of creatures all which breathe and walk 

Upon the earth in sight, 
None is there wretched more than man 

New born into this light. 

And whosoever saith thus of a young infant newly coming forth 
of the mother's womb, maketh no lie at all, but speaketh truth ; 
for nothing is there so imperfect, so indigent and poor, so naked, 

The Natural Love of Parents 299 

so deformed, so foul and impure, than is man to see to presently 
upon his birth, considering that to him (in manner alone) nature 
hath not given so much as a clean passage and way into this 
light; so furred he is all over and polluted with blood, so full 
of filth and ordure, when he entereth into the world, resembling 
rather a creature fresh killed and slain than newly born; that 
nobody is willing to touch, to take up, to handle, dandle, kiss 
and clip it, but such as by nature are led to love it: and therefore, 
whereas in all other living creatures nature hath provided that 
their udders and paps should be set beneath under their bellies, 
in a woman only she hath seated them aloft in her breasts, as a 
very proper and convenient place, where she may more readily 
kiss, embrace, coll and huggle her babe while it sucketh; 
willing thereby to let us understand that the end of breeding, 
bearing and rearing children is not gain and profit, but pure 
love and mere affection. Now, if you would see this more 
plainly proved unto you, propose (if you please) and call to 
remembrance the women and men both in the old world whose 
hap was either first to bear children, or to see an infant newly 
born; there was no law then to command and compel them to 
nourish and bring up their young babes, no hope at all of 
reciprocal pleasure or thanks at their hands that induced them; 
no expectance of reward and recompense another day to be 
paid from them, as due debt for their care, pains, and cost about 
them: nay, if you go to that, I might say rather: That mothers 
had some reason to deal hardly with their young infants, and to 
bear in mind the injuries that they have done them, in that 
they endured such dangers and so great pains for them : 

As namely, when the painful throes 

As sharp as any dart, 
In travail pinch a woman near, 

And pierce her to the heart : 
Which midwives, Juno's daughters then, 

Do put her to, poor wretch, 
With many a pang, when with their hand 

They make her body stretch. 

But our women say; It was never Homerus (surely) who wrote 
this, but Homeris rather: that is to say, some poetess or 
woman of his poetical vein, who had been herself at such a 
business, and felt the dolorous pangs of childbirth, or else was 
even then in labour, and upon the point to be delivered, feeling 
a mixture of bitter and sharp throes in her back, belly and flanks, 
when she poured out these verses: but yet, for all the sorrow 
and dear bargain that a mother hath of it, this kind and natural 

300 Plutarch's Morals 

love doth still so bend, incline and lead her, that notwithstanding 
she be in a heat still upon her travail, full of pains and after- 
throes, panting, trembling, and shaking for very anguish, yet she 
neglecteth not her sweet babe, nor windeth or shrinketh away 
from it; but she turneth toward it, she maketh to it, she smileth 
and laugheth upon it, she taketh it into her arms, she huggleth 
it in her bosom, and kisseth it full kindly: neither all this whiles 
gathereth she any fruits of pleasure or profit, but painfully (God 
wot) and carefully 

She laps it then in rags full soft, 
With swaddling bands she wraps it oft, 
By turns she cools and keeps it warm, 
Loth is she that it should take harm: 
And thus as well by night as day, 
Pains after pains she taketh ay. 

Now tell me (I pray you) what reward, recompense, and profit 
do women reap for all this trouble and painful hand about their 
little ones ? None at all (surely) for the present, and as little in 
future expectance another day, considering their hopes are so 
far off, and the same so uncertain. The husbandman that 
diggeth and laboureth about his vine at the equinox in the 
spring, presseth grapes out of it and maketh his vintage at the 
equinox of the autumn. He that soweth his corn when the stars 
called Pleiades do couch and go down, reapeth and hath his 
harvest afterwards when they rise and appear again; kine 
calve, mares foal, hens hatch, and soon after there cometh profit 
of their calves, their colts and their chickens: but the rearing 
and education of a man is laborious, his growth is very slow and 
late; and whereas long it is ere he cometh to prove and make 
any shew of virtue, commonly most fathers die before that day. 
Neocles lived not to see the noble victory before Salanus that 
Themistocles his son achieved : neither saw Miltiades the happy 
day wherein Simon his son won the field at the famous battle 
near the river Eurynidon: Xantippus was not so happy as to 
hear Pericles his son out of the pulpit preaching and making 
orations to the people; neither was it the good fortune of Ariston 
to be at any of his son Plato's lectures and disputations in 
philosophy: the fathers of Euripides and Sophocles, two re- 
nowned poets, never knew of the victories which they obtained 
for pronouncing and rehearsing their tragedies in open theatre, 
they might hear them peradventure when they were little ones 
to stammer, to lisp, to spell and put syllables together, or to 
speak broken Greek, and that was all. But ordinary it is 

The Natural Love of Parents 301 

that men live to see, hear, and know when their children fall 
to gaming, revelling, masking, and banqueting, to drunkenness, 
wanton love, whoring, and such-like misdemeanours. So as in 
these regards this one mot of Euenus in an epigram of his, 
deserveth to be praised and remembered: 

See how great pains all fathers undergo, 
What daily griefs their children put them to. 

And yet for all this, fathers cease not still to nourish and bring 
up children, and such most of all who stand least in need of 
their children another day; for a mere mockery it were and a 
ridiculous thing, if a man should suppose that rich and wealthy 
men do sacrifice unto the gods, and make great joy at the 
nativity and birth of their children, because that one day they 
shall feed and sustain them in their old age, and inter them 
after they be dead; unless perhaps it may be said, they rejoice 
thus and be so glad to have and bring up children, for that 
otherwise they should leave none heirs behind them; as who 
would say, it were so hard a matter to find out and meet with 
those that would be willing to inherit the lands and goods of 
strangers. Certes, the sands of the sea, the little motes in the 
sun raised of dust, the feathers of birds together with their 
variable notes, be not so many in number as there be men that 
gape after heritages, and be ready to succeed others in their 
livings. Danaus (who, as they say, was the father of fifty 
daughters), if his fortune had been to be childless, I doubt not 
but he should have had more heirs than so to have parted his 
goods and state among them, and those verily after another sort 
than the heirs of his own body. For children yield their parents 
no thanks at all for being their inheritors, neither in regard 
thereof do they any service, duty or honour unto them; for 
why? they expect and look for the inheritance as a thing due 
and of right belonging unto them: but contrariwise you hear 
how those strangers that hang and hunt about a man who hath 
no children, much like to those in the comedies, singing this 

sir, no wight shall do you any harm, 

1 will revenge your wrongs and quarrels ay: 

Hold here, three halfpence good to keep you warm, 
Purse it, drink it, sing woe and care away. 

As for that which Euripides saith : 

These worldly goods procure men friends to chuse, 
And credit most, who then will them refuse. 

302 Plutarch's Morals 

it is not simply and generally true, unless it be to those as have 
no children; for such indeed are sure to be invited and feasted 
by the rich; lords and rulers will make court and be serviceable 
to such ; for them great orators and advocates will plead at the 
bar without fee, and give their counsel gratis : 

How mighty is a rich man with each one, 
So long as his next heir is known to none ! 

whereas you shall see many in the world, who beforetime having 
a number of friends and honour enough, and no sooner had a 
little child born unto them, but they lost all their friends, credit, 
and reputation at once, so that by this reckoning the having 
of children maketh nothing at all to the authority of their 
parents, so that in regard thereof it is not that they do so love 
their children; but surely the cause of this their kindness and 
affection proceedeth altogether from nature, and appeareth no 
less in mankind than in wild beasts: Howbeit otherwhiles this 
natural love, as well as many other good qualities in men, are 
blemished and obscured by occasion of vice that buddeth up 
afterwards; like as we see wild briars, bushes and brambles to 
spring up and grow among good and kind seeds, for otherwise 
we might as well collect and say that men love not themselves 
because many cut their own throats, or wilfully fall down head- 
long from steep rocks and high places. For QEdipus 

With bloody hand his own eyelids did force, 
And plucked out his eyes upon remorse. 

Hegesias, disputing and discoursing upon a time of abstinence, 
caused many of his auditors and scholars to pine themselves to 
death : 

Such accidents of many sorts there be, 
Permitted by the gods we daily see. 

But all of them, like as those other passions and maladies of 
the mind before named, transport a man out of his own nature, 
and put him beside himself, so as they testify against them- 
selves that this is true, and that they do amiss herein; for if 
a sow having farrowed a little pig, devour it when she hath done, 
or a bitch chance to tear in pieces a pupp)^ or whelp of her own 
litter, presently men are amazed at the sight thereof, and 
wonderfully affrighted, whereupon they sacrifice unto the gods 
certain expiatory sacrifices, for to divert the sinister presages 
thereof, as taking it to be a prodigious wonder, and confessing 
thereby that it is a property given to all living creatures, even 
by the instinct and institution of nature, to love, foster and 

The Natural Love of Parents 303 

cherish the fruit of their own bodies : so far is it from them to 
destroy the same. And yet, notwithstanding her corruption and 
depravation in this behalf: Like as in mines, the gold (although 
it be mixed with much clay, and furred all over with earth) 
shineth and glittereth through the same, and is to be seen afar 
off; even so nature, amid the most depravate manners and 
corrupt passions that we have, sheweth a certain love and tender 
affection to little ones. To conclude, whereas the poor many 
times make no care at all to nourish and rear up their children, 
it is for nothing else but because they fear lest having not so 
good bringing up nor so civil education as they ought, they 
should prove servile in behaviour, untaught, unmannerly, rude, 
and void of all good parts; and judging (as they do) poverty to 
be the extremity of all miseries that can befall to man, their 
heart will not serve them to leave unto their children this 
hereditary calamity, as a most grievous and dangerous disease. 



[In certain discourses going before, it appeareth what a benefit 
and good thing friendship is. And now Plutarch addeth thereto a 
certain correction very necessary in regard of our nature, which is 
given always to bend unto extremities, and not able long to hold 
the golden mean. Like as therefore it bewrayeth a miserable, 
wretched and cursed mind to be desirous for to lead a life without 
acquaintance and familiarity with any person; even so to make 
friends (as they say) hand over head and upon every occasion is 
perad venture impossible, but surely not expedient. Our author, 
therefore, willing to reform this disordinate affection that is in 
many, who because they would have a number of friends, oftentimes 
have not one assured, sheweth that it is far better for a man to get 
one fast and faithful friend than a great multitude of whom he 
cannot make any certain account; propounding as a remedy for 
this covetous mind of entertaining such a plurality of friends, the 
examples of those who are contented with few, and by that means 
think their estate more sure and steadfast. After this, he treateth 
of the choice of friends, but especially of one. Then discourseth he 
of that which is requisite in true friendship, annexing thereto many 
proper and apt similitudes, which represent as well the benefit that 
sincere affection bringeth, as the hurt which cometh of feigned and 
counterfeit amity. This done, he proveth that to entertain a 
number of friends is a very hard matter, yea, and impossible; for 
that a man is not able to converse with them, nor to frame and sort 
with them all, but that he shall procure himself enemies on all sides : 
and when he hath enriched and adorned the same with notable 
examples, he proceedeth to describe what use a man is to make of 
friendship, and with what sort and condition of men he ought to 
join in amity: but this is the conclusion; That an honest and 
virtuous man cannot quit himself well and perform his devoir unto 
many friends at once.] 

Socrates upon a time demanded of Menon the Thessalian, who 
was esteemed very sufficient in all literature, and a great school- 
man, exercised in long practice of disputations, and named to be 
one (as Empedocles saith) who had attained to the very height 
and perfection of wisdom and learning, what virtue was; and 
when he had answered readily and boldly enough in this wise: 
There is a virtue (quoth he) of a young child, and of an old gray- 
beard; of a man, and of a woman; of a magistrate, and of a 


Of the Plurality of Friends 305 

private person; of a master, and of a servant: I con you thank 
(quoth Socrates again, replying unto him), you have done it 
very well: I asked you but of one virtue, and you have raised 
and let fly a whole swarm (as it were) of virtues, guessing and 
collecting not amiss by such an answer that this deep clerk, who 
had named thus many virtues, knew not so much as one. And 
might not a man seem to scorn and mock us well enough, who 
having not yet gotten one friendship and amity certain, are 
afraid (forsooth) lest ere we be aware, we fall into a multitude 
and plurality of friends: for this were even as much as if one 
that is maimed and stark blind should fear to become either 
Briareus the giant, with an hundred arms and hands, or Argus, 
who had eyes all over his body. And yet we praise and com- 
mend excessively and beyond all measure the young man in 
Menander, when he saith: 

Of all the goods which I do hold, 
To think each one (I would be bold) 
Right wonderful, if I might find 
The shadow only of a friend. 

But certainly this is one cause among many others, and the 
same not the least, that we cannot be possessed of any one 
assured amity, because we covet to have so many much like unto 
these common strumpets and harlots, who for that they prosti- 
tute their bodies so often and to so many men, cannot make any 
reckoning to hold and retain any one paramour or lover fast 
and sure unto them ; for that the first comers, seeing themselves 
neglected and cast off by the entertainment of new, retire and 
fall away from them, and seek elsewhere; or rather, much after 
the manner of that foster-child 1 of Lady Hypsipyle : 

Who being set in meadow green 
With pleasant flowers all fair beseen, 
One after other cropp'd them still, 
Hunting this game with right goodwill: 
For why, his heart took great content 
In their gay hue and sweety scent : 
So little wit and small discretion 
The infant had, and no repletion ; 2 

even so every one of us for the desire of novelty, and upon a 
satiety and fulness of that which is present and in hand, suffereth 
himself ever to be carried away with a new-come friend that is 

1 Opheltes or Archemorus. 

% vq-wiov &xPV crT0V ^X w,/ : or vrjirtov &tt\t)(ttov tx^v '■ as it is read 


Plutarch's Morals 

fresh and flowering ; which fickle and inconstant affection causeth 
us to change often and to begin many friendships and finish 
none ; to enter still into new amities and bring none to perfection; 
and for the love of the new which we pursue and seek after, we 
pass by that which we held already and let it go. 

To begin then first and foremost at antiquity (as it were) from 
the goddess Vesta (according to the old proverb), let us exanine 
and consider the common fame of man's life which hath been 
delivered unto us from hand to hand time out of mind, by the 
succession and progress of so many ages from the old world unto 
this day, and take the same for a witness and counsellor both in 
this matter, we shall find in all the years past these only couples 
and pairs of renowned friends, to wit, Theseus and Pirithous; 
Achilles and Patroclus; Orestes and Pylades; Pythias and 
Damon; Epaminondas and Pelopidas. For friendship is indeed 
(as I may so say) one of these cattle that love company and 
desire to feed and pasture with fellows; but it cannot abide 
herds and droves, it may not away with these great flocks, as 
jays, daws and choughs do. And whereas it is commonly said 
and thought, that a friend is another own self, and men give unto 
him the name of eraipos or 'drapos in Greek, as if a man would 
say, eVepos, that is, such another: what implieth all this, but that 
friendship should be reduced within the measure and compass 
of the dual number, that is, of twain. Well, this is certain, we 
can buy neither many slaves nor purchase many friends with a 
small piece of coin : but what may be this piece of money that will 
fetch friends? Surely, kind affection or goodwill, and a lovely 
grace joined with virtue, things, I may tell you, so rare, as look 
throughout the world and the whole course of nature, you shall 
find nothing more geason. No marvel, then, if it be impossible 
either to love many or to be loved of many, perfectly and in the 
height of affection. But like as great rivers, if they be divided 
into many channels, and cut into sundry riverets, carry but an 
ebb water, and run with no strong stream; even so a vehement 
and affectionate love planted in the mind, if it be parted many 
and divers ways, becometh enervate and feeble, and cometh in 
manner to nothing. This is the reason in nature that those 
creatures which bring forth but one and no more, love their 
young more tenderly and entirely than others do theirs. Homer 
also, when he would signify a child most dearly beloved, calleth 
it fxovvov T-qXvytrov, that is to say, only begotten and toward old 
age, to wit, when the parents have no more between them, nor 
ever are like or do look to have another: for mine own part, I 

Of the Plurality of Friends 307 

would not desire to have that povvov, that is to say, one friend, 
and no more; but surely, I could wish that with other he were 
Ti]\vytTo$, yea, and o^lyovos, that is to say, long and late first 
ere he be gotten, like as a son which is born toward the latter 
days of his parents, yea, and such a one as (who according to 
that proverb so common in every man's mouth) hath eaten with 
me a measure of salt. And are not many nowadays called 
friends? what else? if they have but drunk once together at 
the tavern, or met in the tennis court, or else turned into a 
tabling - house, and played at dice and hazard one with the 
other, or haply light in company at one hostelry and lodged 
together, and in one word, they do contract and gather friends 
in this manner out of common inns, wrestling-places and ordinary 
walks in the markets or public galleries. And verily, the 
common sort, when they see every morning in the houses of rich 
men and mighty rulers a great multitude and concourse of people, 
with much ado and hurry, giving attendance there to salute 
them and bid them good-morrow, kissing their right hands, and 
glad if they may touch them, accompanying them in manner of 
a guard when they go out of their lodging; oh, they imagine and 
repute such potentates wondrous happy, as being furnished with 
such numbers of friends; and yet surely, as many as they be, 
they shall see more flies ordinarily in their kitchens : and to say a 
troth, like as these flies will be gone if no cates and viands be 
stirring, so these friends will tarry no longer than gain and 
profit is to be gotten. 

Certes, true and perfect friendship requireth these three 
things especially; Virtue, as being honest and commendable; 
Society, which is pleasant and delectable; and Profit, which is 
needful and necessary: for a man must admit and receive a 
friend upon judgment and after trial made, he ought to delight 
and joy in his company, and he is to make use of him as occasion 
serveth: all which three are contrary unto plurality of friends, 
but especially that which is principal, to wit, judgment upon a 
trial: and to prove this to be true, see first and foremost 
whether it be possible in a small time to make proof and trial 
of singing men or quiristers, that they may keep a good consent 
and harmony together in their song; or to make choice of oar- 
men, who shall agree in their rowing, to rise and fall with their 
oars just together; or of household servants such as we purpose 
to make the bailiffs and stewards of our goods, or the governors 
and bringers-up of our children ? much more unlikely then is it, 
that we should have proof of many friends in a little space who 

308 Plutarch's Morals 

will be ready to enter the trial with us of all manner of fortune, 
and of whom every one will be prest and willing: 

Of his welfare to yield even part to thee, 
And bear like part of thy calamity. 

For neither is a ship shot or haled into the sea against so many 
storms and tempests ; nor men do set and pitch so many stakes 
in a palisado for the defence of any place; or in havens raise 
banks and oppose dams against the like dangers, or in fear of 
so many perils, as friendship promiseth succour and refuge for, 
if it be founded surely and aright upon good proof and sufficient 
experience. As for such as before trial and experiment made 
do intrude themselves, coming and going for friends, such, when 
they be put to the trial and touch indeed, and then found like 
evil money, counterfeit or light, they that go without them be 
glad in their mind, and as many as have them wish with all 
their heart and pray to God for to be rid of them. But surely 
this is a troublesome and cumbrous thing, neither is it an easy 
matter to void and cast off such a friendship as this, so dis- 
pleasant and offensive: for like as if some kind of bad meat do 
trouble and offend the stomach, a man can neither retain and 
hold it still, but it will put him to pain and breed hurt and 
corruption, nor yet put it off and send it out in such sort as it 
went in, but all filthy and loathsome, as being furred over with 
slime, and mixed confusedly with other humours, and wholly 
altered from the former state; even so an ill friend either 
tarrieth with us still to his own grief and ours both, or else away 
he goeth perforce with evil will, malice and enmity, like bitter 
choler that is vomited out of the stomach. 

It is not good, therefore, to receive and admit of friends over- 
lightly and over-soon, nor to set our minds and knit our affec- 
tions to those that come next hand and present themselves first, 
nor yet love those incontinently that seek to us and follow us; 
but rather to seek after them and follow them ourselves that are 
worthy of friendship: for we must not always choose that which 
is easy to be had and willing to be gotten; for we put by gorse 
and furzen bushes; we tread under foot briars and brambles 
though they catch hold of us and hang unto us as we walk 
whether we will or no; whereas we go forward to the olive-tree 
and the vine; and even so it is not always decent and good to 
entertain into our familiarity one that is ready to embrace and 
hang about us ; but rather such ought we ourselves affectionately 
to embrace whom we have tried to be profitable unto us, and who 

Of the Plurality of Friends 309 

deserve that we should love and make account of them. And 
like as Xeuxis the painter answered sometime to those who found 
fault with him for his slow hand in painting: I confess indeed 
(quoth he) that I am long in drawing a picture, for I purpose 
that my work should continue long; and even so that friendship 
and familiarity is like to last and be preserved long which was 
a good while in proof and trial. Is it then no easy matter to 
make trial and choice of many friends together? and is it no 
hard thing to converse and keep company with many at once, 
or rather is this also impossible? for surely it is conversation 
and fellowship whereby we enjoy the benefit of friendship, and 
the most sweet and pleasant fruit of amity consisteth in keeping 
continual society, and daily frequenting one another's company, 
like unto those who uttered these words : 

For during life we will not sit 

In counsel from our friends, 
Nor yet resolve of doubtful points 

Before we know their minds. 

As Homer reporteth in one place: and in another Menelaus, 
speaking of Ulysses, saith thus : 

Nought else us twain, our mutual love, 

And pleasures shall depart 
Until death close up both our eyes 

And strike us to the heart. 

But this plurality of friends whereof we now speak, seemeth 
to do clean contrary; for whereas the simple amity of twain 
draweth us together, holdeth and uniteth us by frequent and 
continual conversation, fellowship, and duties of kindness, 

Much like as when the fig-tree juice, 

You put white milk among, 
It curdles, knits, and binds the same, 

No^less than rennet strong, 

according to the words of Empedocles ; and surely desirous it is 
to make the semblable union and concorporation : this friend- 
ship of many separateth, distracteth and diverteth us, calling 
and transporting us sundry ways, not permitting the commixture 
and soldering (as it were) of goodwill and kind affection to grow 
into one, and make a perfect joint by familiar conversation, en- 
closing and fastening every part together. But the same anon 
bringeth withal a great inequality in offices and reciprocal 
services meet for friends, and breedeth a certain foolish bashful- 
ness and straining of courtesy in the performance thereof, for 
by occasion of many friends those parts in amity, which other- 

3 i o Plutarch's Morals 

wise are easy and commodious, become difficult and incom- 
modious: And why? 

All men do not agree in humour one, 

Their thoughts, their cares bend diversely each one ; 

and no marvel, for our very natures do not all incline in affection 
the same way; neither are we at all times conversant and 
acquainted with the like fortunes and adventures. To say 
nothing of their sundry occasions and occurrences which serve 
not indifferently for all our actions; but like as the winds unto 
sailors, they are with some and against others; sometimes on 
our backs and otherwhiles full in our face. And say that it 
may fall out so that all our friends at once do stand in need, 
and be desirous of one and the same help and ministry at our 
hands, it were very hard to fit all their turns and satisfy them 
to their content; whether it be in taking our advice and counsel 
in any negotiations, or in treating about state matters, or in 
suit after dignities, places of government, or in feasting and 
entertaining strangers in their houses : But suppose that at one 
and the same instant our friends, being diversely affected and 
troubled with sundry affairs, request all of them together our 
helping hand; as, for example, one that is going to sea, for to 
have our company in that voyage ; another, who being defendant 
and to answer for himself in the law, to assist him in the court; 
and a third that is a plaintiff, to second him in his plea; a fourth, 
who either is to buy or sell, for to help him to make his markets ; 
a fifth, who is to marry, for to sacrifice with him, and be at his 
wedding dinner; and a sixth, who is to inter a dead corpse, for 
to mourn and solemnise the funeral with him : in such a medley 
and confusion as this, as if according to Sophocles : 

A city smoked with incense sweet, 
And ring with songs for mirth so meet, 
With plaints also and groans resound, 
And all in one and selfsame stound. 

Certes, having so many friends, to assist and gratify them all 

were impossible, to pleasure more were absurd, and in serving 

one's turn to reject many others, were offensive and hurtful: for 

this is a rule : 

Who to his friend is well affected, 
Loves not himself to be neglected. 

And yet commonly such negligences and forgetful defaults of 
friends we take with more patience and put up with less anger 
and displeasure, when they shall come to excuse themselves 

Of the Plurality of Friends 3 1 1 

by oblivion, making these and such-like answers : Surely, you 
were but forgotten; it was out of my head, and I never thought 
of it: but he that shall allege thus and say: I was not your 
assistant in the court, nor stood to you in your cause, by reason 
that I attended another friend of mine in a trial of his; or, I 
came not to visit you whiles you had an ague, for that I was 
busily employed at a feast, that such a one made to one of his 
friends; excusing his negligence to one friend by his diligence 
to others; surely he maketh no satisfaction for the offence 
already taken, but increaseth the same and maketh it worse 
than before, by reason of jealousy added thereto; howbeit most 
men as it should seem aim at nothing else but at the profit and 
commodity which friendship bringeth and yieldeth from without, 
and never regard what care it doth imprint and work within; 
neither remember they that he whose turn hath been served by 
many friends, must likewise reciprocally be ready to help them 
as their need requireth. Like as therefore the giant Briareus, 
with his hundred hands feeding fifty bellies, had no more 
sustenance for his whole body than we, who with two hands 
furnish and fill one belly; even so the commodity that we have 
by many friends bringeth this discommodity withal, that we are 
to be employed also to many, in taking part with them of their 
griefs and passions, in travailing and in being troubled together 
with them in all their negotiations and affairs: for we are not 
to give ear unto Euripides the poet when he saith thus : 

In mutual love men ought a mean to keep, 
That it touch not heart root nor marrow deep, 
Affections for to change it well besits, 
To rise and fall, now hot, now cool by fits; 

giving us to understand that friendship is to be used according 
as need requireth more or less, like to the helm of a ship, which 
both holdeth it hard and also giveth head, or the tackling which 
spread and draw, hoist and strike sail, as occasion serveth. 
But contrariwise, rather (good Euripides) we may turn this 
speech of yours to enmity, and admonish men that their quarrels 
and contentions be moderate and enter not to the heart and 
inward marrow (as it were) of the soul, that hatred (I say) and 
malice, that anger, offences, defiances, and suspicions, be so 
entertained as that they may be soon appeased, laid down and 

A better precept is that yet of Pythagoras, when he teacheth 
us not to give our right hand to many; that is to say, not to 
make many men our friends, nor to affect that popular amity 

312 Plutarch's Morals 

common to all, and exposed or offered to every one that cometh, 
which no doubt cannot chuse but bring many passions with it 
into the heart, among which, to be disquieted for a friend, to 
condole or grieve with him, to enter into troubles, and to plunge 
oneself into perils for his sake, are not very easy matters to be 
borne by those that carry an ingenuous mind with them, and be 
kind-hearted; but the saying of wise Chilon, a professor of 
philosophy, is most true, who answering unto a man that 
vaunted how he had not an enemy; It should seem then (quoth 
he) that thou hast never a friend; for certainly enmities ensue 
presently upon amities, nay, they are both interlaced together; 
neither is it the part of a friend not to feel the injuries done unto 
a friend, nor to participate with him in all ignominies, hatred 
and quarrels that he incurreth; and one enemy evermore will 
be sure to suspect the friend of another, yea, and be ready to 
malice him; as for friends, oftentimes they envy their own 
friends, they have them in jealousy, and traduce them every 
way. The oracle answered unto Timesias when he consulted 
about the planting and peopling of a new colony in this wise : 

Thou think'st to lead a swarm of bees full kind, 
But angry wasps thou shalt them shortly find. 

Semblably they that seek after a bee-hive (as it were) of friends, 
light ere they be aware upon a wasps' nest of enemies: where 
there is a great odds and difference even in this, that the reveng- 
ing remembrance of an enemy for wrong done over-weigheth 
much the thankful memory of a friend for a benefit received: 
and whether this be true or no, consider in what manner 
Alexander the Great entreated the friends of Philotas and 
Parmenio; how Dionysius the Tyrant used the familiars of Dion; 
after what sort Nero the emperor dealt by the acquaintance of 
Plautus ; or Tiberius Caesar by the well-willers of Sejanus, whom 
they caused all to be racked, tortured and put to death in the 
end. And like as the costly jewels of gold, and the rich apparel 
of King Creon's daughter, served him in no stead at all, but the 
fire that took hold thereof, flaming light out suddenly, burned 
him when he ran unto her to take her in his arms, and so con- 
sumed father and daughter together; even so you shall have 
some, who having never received any benefit at all by the pros- 
perity of their friends, are entangled notwithstanding in their 
calamities, and perish together with them for company; a thing 
that ordinarily and most of all they are subject unto, who be 
men of profession, great clerks and honourable personages. 

Of the Plurality of Friends 3 1 3 

Thus Theseus, when Perithous his friend was punished and lay 
bound in prison, 

With fetters sure to him tied was, 
Far stronger than of iron or brass. 

Thucydides also writeth; That in the great pestilence at 
Athens, the best men and such as made greatest profession of 
virtue, were they who died most with their friends that lay sick 
of the plague : for that they never spared themselves, but went to 
visit and look to all those whom they loved and were familiarly 
acquainted with. And therefore it is not meet to make so little 
regard and reckoning of virtue, as to hang and fasten it upon 
others, without respect, and (as they say) hand over head, but 
to reserve the communication thereof to those who be worthy; 
that is to say, unto such who are able to love reciprocally, and 
know how to impart the like again. And verily, this is the 
greatest contrariety and opposition which crosseth plurality of 
friends, in that amity in deed is bred by similitude and con- 
formity: for considering that the very brute beasts not endued 
with reason, if a man would have to engender with those that 
are of divers kinds, are brought to it by force, and thereto com- 
pelled, insomuch as they shrink, they couch down upon their 
knees, and be ready to flee from one another; whereas con- 
trariwise, they take pleasure and delight to be coupled with 
their like and of the same kind, receiving willingly and enter- 
taining their company in the act of generation, with gentleness 
and good contentment: how is it possible that any sound and 
perfect friendship should grow between those who are in 
behaviour quite different, in affections diverse, in conditions 
opposite, and whose course of life tendeth to contrary or 
sundry ends? True it is that the harmony of music, whether 
it be in song or instrument, hath symphony by antiphony, (that 
is to say) the accord ariseth from discord and of contrary notes 
is composed a sweet tune, so as the treble and the base concur, 
after a sort (I wot not how), and meet together, bringing forth 
by their agreement that sound which pleaseth the ear: but in 
this consonance and harmony of friendship there ought to be no 
part unlike or unequal, nothing obscure and doubtful, but the 
same should be composed of all things agreeable, to wit, the same 
will, the same opinion, the same counsel, the same affection, as 
if one soul were parted into many bodies. 

And what man is he, so laborious, so mutable, so variable, 
and apt to take every fashion and form? who is able to frame 

314 Plutarch's Morals 

unto all patterns, and accommodate himself to so many natures, 
and will not rather be ready to laugh at the poet Theognis, 
who giveth this lesson: 

Put on a mind (I thee do wish) 
As variable as polype fish, 
Who ay resemble will the roach, 
To which he nearly doth approach. 

And yet this change and transmutation of the said polype or 
pourcuttle fish, entereth not deeply in, but appeareth superficially 
in the skin, which by the closeness or laxity thereof, as he draws 
it in or lets it out, receiveth the defluctions of the colours from 
those bodies that are near unto it; whereas amities do require 
that the manners, natures, passions, speeches, studies, desires 
and inclinations may be conformable; for otherwise to do were 
the property of a Proteus, who was neither fortunate nor yet 
very good and honest, but who by enchantment and sorcery 
could eftsoons transform himself from one shape to another in 
one and the same instant; and even so he that entertaineth many 
friends must of necessity be conformable to them all ; namely, 
with the learned and studious, to be ever reading; with pro- 
fessors of wrestling, to bestrew his body with dust (as they do) 
for to wrestle; with hunters, to hunt; with drunkards, to quaff 
and carouse; with ambitious citizens, to sue and mung for 
offices, without any settled mansion (as it were) of his own 
nature for his conditions to make abode in. And like as natural 
philosophers do hold: That the substance or matter that hath 
neither form nor any colour, which they call materia prima, is 
a subject capable of all forms, and of the own nature so apt to 
alter and change, that sometimes it is ardent and burning, 
otherwhiles it is liquid and moist; now rare and of an airy 
substance, and afterwards again gross and thick, resembling the 
nature of earth; even so must the mind applied to this multi- 
plicity of friends, be subject to many passions, sundry con- 
ditions, divers affections pliable, variable and apt to change 
from one fashion to another. Contrariwise, simple friendship 
and amity between twain requireth a staid mind, a firm and 
constant nature, permanent and abiding always in one place, 
and retaining still the same fashions; which is the reason that 
a fast and assured friend is very geason and hard to be found. 



[Long time hath this proverb been current, That there is nothing 
in this world but good fortune and misfortune. Some have ex- 
pounded and taken it thus; as if all things were carried by mere 
chance and aventure, or moved and driven by inconstant fortune, an 
idol forged in their brain, for that they were ignorant in the provi- 
dence of the True God, who conducteth ordinarily all things in this 
world by second causes and subaltern means, yea, the very motion, 
will, and works of men, for the execution of his ordinance and 
purpose. Now Plutarch, not able to arise and reach up to this 
divine and heavenly wisdom hidden from his knowledge, stayeth 
below; and yet, poor pagan and ethnic though he were, he confuteth 
that dangerous opinion of fortune; shewing that it taketh away all 
distinction of good and evil, quencheth and putteth out the light of 
man's life, blending and confounding vice and virtue together. 
Afterwards he proveth that prudence and wisdom over-ruleth this 
blind fortune, by considering the mastery and dominion that man 
hath above beasts: the arts also and sciences whereof he maketh 
profession, together with his judgment and will directly opposite and 
contrary to all casualties and changes.] 

Blind fortune rules man's life alway, 
Sage counsel therein bears no sway, 

said one (whoever it was) that thought all human actions 
depended upon mere casualty, and were not guided by wisdom. 
What ? and hath justice and equity no place at all in this world ? 
can temperance and modesty do nothing in the direction and 
managing of our affairs? Came it from fortune; and was it 
indeed by mere chance that Aristides made choice to continue 
in poverty, when it was in his power to make himself a lord of 
much wealth and many goods? or that Scipio, when he had 
forced Carthage, took not to himself, nor so much as saw any 
part of all that pillage? And was it long of fortune, or by 
casualty that Philocrates having received of King Philip a great 
sum of gold, bought therewith harlots and dainty fishes ? or 
that Lasthenes and Euthycrates betrayed the city Olynthus, 
measuring sovereign good and felicity of man by belly-cheer, 
and those pleasures which of all other be most dishonest and 
infamous? And shall we say, it was a work of fortune that 
Alexander, son of Philip, not only himself forbare to touch the 


3 1 6 Plutarch's Morals 

bodies of the captive women taken in war, but also punished 
all such as offered them violence and injury: and contrariwise, 
came it by ill luck and unhappy fortune, that another Alexander, 
the son of King Priamus, slept and lay with his friend's wife, 
when he lodged and entertained him in his house, and not only 
so, but carried her away with him, and by that occasion brought 
all manner of calamity upon two main parts of the continent, 
to wit, Europe and Asia, and filled them both with those 
miseries that follow wars? 

If we grant that all these occurrents came by fortune, what 
should let us, but we might as well say that cats, goats and apes 
be likewise by fortune given to be always lickerous, lecherous, 
shrewd and saucy. But in case it be true (as true it is) that the 
world hath in it temperance, justice and fortitude; what reason 
is there to say that there is no prudence and wisdom therein? 
Now if it be yielded that the world is not void of prudence, how 
can it be maintained that there should not be in it sage counsel ? 
For temperance (as some say) is a kind of prudence ; and most 
certain it is that justice should be assisted by prudence; or to 
say more truly, ought to have it present with her continually. 
Certes, sage counsel and wisdom in the good use of pleasures and 
delights, whereby we continue honest, we ordinarily do call 
continence and temperance; the same in dangers and travails, 
we term tolerance, patience and fortitude; in contracts and 
management of state affairs we give the name of loyalty, equity 
and justice; whereby it cometh to pass, that if we will attribute 
the effects of counsel and wisdom unto fortune, we must likewise 
ascribe unto her the works of justice and temperance. And so 
(believe me) to rob and steal, to cut purses, and to keep whores, 
must proceed from fortune; which if it be so, let us abandon 
all discourse of our reason, and betake ourselves wholly to 
fortune to be driven and carried to and fro at her pleasure like 
to the dust, chaff or sweepings of the floor, by the puffs of some 
great wind. Take away sage and discreet counsel ; farewell then 
all consultation as touching affairs, away with deliberation, 
consideration and inquisition into that which is behoveful and 
expedient: for surely then Sophocles talked idly, and knew not 
what he spake in saying thus: 

Seek, and be sure to find with diligence, 
But lose what you forlet by negligence. 

And in another place, where dividing the affairs of man, he saith 
in this wise : 

Of Fortune 317 

What may be taught, I strive to learn; 

What may likewise be found 
I seek, for wishes all I pray, 

And would to God be bound. 

Now would I gladly know, what is it that men may find and 
what can they learn, in case all things in the world be directed 
by fortune ? What senate house of city would not be dissolved 
and abolished? what counsel chamber of prince should not be 
overthrown and put down, if all were at the disposition of 
fortune? We do her wrong in reproaching her for blindness, 
when we run upon her as we do, blind, and debasing ourselves 
unto her; for how can we chuse but stumble upon her indeed, 
if we pluck out our own eyes, to wit, our wisdom and dexterity 
of counsel, and take a blind guide to lead us by the hand in the 
course of this our life ? Certes, this were even as much as if some 
one of us should say, the action of those that see is fortune, and 
not sight of eyes, which Plato calleth 4>iixr<t>6pa } that is, light- 
bearers: the action likewise of them that hear is nothing else 
but fortune, and not a natural power and faculty to receive the 
stroke or repercussion of the air, carried by the ear to the brain. 
But better it were (I trow) and so will every wise body think, 
to take heed how to discredit our senses so as to submit them 
to fortune: For why? Nature hath bestowed upon us sight, 
hearing, taste and smelling, with all the parts of the body endued 
with the rest of their powers and faculties, as ministers of 
counsel and wisdom. For it is the soul that seeth, it is the soul 
and understanding that heareth, all the rest are deaf and blind : 
and like as if there were no sun at all we should (for all the 
stars besides) live in perpetual night as Heraclitus saith; even 
so, if man had not reason and intelligence, notwithstanding all 
his other senses, he should not differ in the whole race of his life 
from brute and wild beasts ; but now in that we excel and rule 
them all, it is not by chance and fortune: but Prometheus 
(that is to say) the use and discourse of reason is the very cause 
that hath given us in recompense 

Both horse and ass, with breed of beeves so strong 
To carry us, and ease our labour long, 

according as we read in ^Eschylus the poet. Forasmuch as 

otherwise fortune and nature both have been more favourable 

and beneficial to most of the brute beasts in their entrance into 

this life, than unto man; for armed they be with horns, tusks, 

spurs and stings; moreover, as Empedocles saith: 

The urchin strikes with many a prick, 
Which grow on back both sharp and thick. 

3 1 8 Plutarch's Morals 

Again, there be many beasts clad and covered with scales and 
shag hair; shod also with claws and hard hoofs: only man, as 
Plato saith, is abandoned and forsaken by nature, all naked, 
unarmed, unshod, and without any vesture whatsoever: 

But by one gift which she hath given, 
Amends she makes, and all is even; 

and that is, the use of reason, industry and providence: 

For strength of mortal man is small, 
His limbs but weak and sinews all: 
Yet by his wit and quick conceit, 
By cunning casts and subtle sleight, 
No beast in sea, or mount, so fell, 
So wild or sly, but he doth quell. 

What beast more nimble, more light and swift than is the 
horse ? but for man it is that he runneth in the race : the dog is 
courageous and eager in fight, but it is in the defence of man: 
fishes yield a most delicate and sweet meat, and swine be full 
of good flesh, but both of them serve as viands for the food and 
nourishment of man: what creature is bigger or more terrible 
to see to than is the elephant? howbeit he maketh man sport 
and pastime, he is shewed as a goodly sight in festival solemnities 
where people be assembled, he is taught to frisk and dance his 
measures, to fall upon his knees likewise and do reverence: and 
verily these and such-like sleights and examples are exhibited 
not in vain nor without good profit, but to this end, that thereby 
we may know how far forth reason and wisdom doth advance 
and lift up a man, above what things it maketh him surmount, 
and how by means thereof he ruleth all, and surpasseth all : 

At fight with fists we are not good, 

Nor yet in tripping feet, 
In wrestling we may well be blam'd, 

Our running is not fleet. 

But in all these feats we are inferior to brute beasts, howbeit 
for experience, memory, wisdom and artificial sleights (as 
Anaxagoras said) we go beyond them all, and thereby we have 
the mastery and use of them, making them to serve our turns : 
we strain honey out of the combs of bees; we press milk out of 
beasts' udders; we rob and spoil them; we drive and carry 
them away, and whatsoever they have, insomuch as in all this 
there is nothing that can be justly attributed to fortune, but 
all proceeds from counsel and forecast. 

Furthermore, the works of carpenters are done by hand of 
man, so are they also of smiths and braziers, of masons, builders, 

Of Fortune 319 

gravers and imagers: in all which there is nothing to be seen 
that a man can say is done by chance or fortune, at leastwise 
when it is wrought absolutely and as it should be. And say 
that it may fall out otherwhiles that a good artisan, whether 
he be a cutter in brass or a mason, a smith or a carpenter, may 
meet with fortune and do some little thing by chance; yet the 
greatest pieces of work and the most number are wrought and 
finished respectively by their arts, which a certain poet hath 
given us secretly to understand by these verses: 

March on your way, each artisan. 
Who live upon your handicraft, 
On forth, I say, in comely train, 
Your sacred panniers bear aloft ; 
You that Ergane dread and fear, 
The daughter grim of Jupiter. 

For this Ergane (that is to say, Minerva) all artisans and 
artificers acknowledge and honour for their patroness, and not 
fortune. True it is that the report goes of a certain painter, 
who drawing the picture of an horse, had done very well in all 
respects, both in portraiture and also colours, save only that he 
pleased not himself in painting the foam and swelling froth 
which useth to gather about the bit as he champeth upon the 
same, and so falleth from his mouth when he snuffeth and 
bloweth; this, I say, he liked not, neither thought he it work- 
manly done, insomuch as he wiped it out many times and began 
it anew; but never was it to his mind; at last, in a pelting 
chafe because it would frame no better, he takes me his sponge 
full as it was of colours, and flang it against the table wherein 
he wrought; but see the wonderful chance; this sponge, 
lighting as it did upon the right place, gave such a print, and 
dashed so, as that it represented the froth that he so much 
desired most lively; and to my remembrance there is not in 
any history set down an artificial thing but this that fortune 
ever did. 

Artificers use altogether in every piece of work their squires, 
their rules, their lines and levels; they go by measures and 
numbers, to the end that in all their works there should not be 
anything found done either rashly or at aventure. And verily 
these arts are petty kinds of prudence and so called; or rills 
and riverets flowing from prudence, or certain parcels rather of 
it, sprinkled and dispersed among the necessities of this life: 
and thus much is covertly signified by the fable of the fire that 
Prometheus divided by sparkles, which slew some here, some 

320 Plutarch's Morals 

there ; for semblably, the small parcels and fragments of wisdom, 
being cut into sundry portions, are ranged into their several 
ranks and become arts. A wonderful thing how these arts and 
sciences should have no dealing with fortune nor need her help, 
for to attain unto their proper ends ; and yet prudence, which 
is the greatest sovereign and most perfect of them all, yea, and 
the very height of all the glory, reputation and goodness of man, 
should be just nothing. In the winding up and letting down of 
the strings of an instrument, there is one kind of wisdom, and 
that is called music; in the dressing and ordering of meats and 
viands there is another, which they name cookery; in washing 
and scouring of clothes and garments there is a third, to wit, 
the fuller's craft. As for our little children, we teach them to 
draw on their shoes, to make them ready and dress themselves 
in their clothes decently, to take meat in their right hand, and 
to hold bread in the left; an evident argument and proof that 
even such small matters as these depend not of chance and 
fortune, but require skill and heed taking. 

Shall we say then that the greatest and most principal things 
that are, even those that be most material and necessary for 
man's felicity, use not wisdom, nor participate one whit with 
providence and the judgment of reason? There is no man so 
blockish and void of understanding, that after he hath tempered 
clay and water together, lets it alone and goeth his way when he 
hath so done, looking that of the own accord, or by fortune, 
there will be bricks or tiles made thereof: neither is any one 
such a sot, as when he hath bought wool and leather, sits him 
down and prays unto fortune that thereof he may have garments 
or shoes : and is there any man so foolish, think you, who having 
gathered together a great mass of gold and silver, gotten about 
him a mighty retinue of slaves and servants, and being possessed 
of divers fair and stately houses with many a door within and 
without, and those surely locked on every side, having before 
him in his eyesight a sort of sumptuous beds with their rich and 
costly furniture, and of tables most precious, will repose sove- 
reign felicity therein, or think that all this can make him to live 
happily, without pain, without grief, secure of change and 
alteration, if he have not wisdom withal ? 

There was one that cavilled upon a time with Captain 
Iphicrates, and by way of reproach and minding to prove that 
he was of no reckoning, demanded what he was? For (quoth 
he) you are not a man-at-arms, nor archer, nor yet targetier: 
I am not indeed, I confess (quoth Iphicrates), but I am he who 

Of Fortune 321 

command all these, and employ them as occasion serveth ; even 
so wisdom is neither gold nor silver, it is not glory or riches, 
it is not health, it is not strength, it is not beauty: what is it 
then? Surely even that which can skill how to use all these, 
and by means whereof each of these things is pleasant, honour- 
able and profitable; and contrariwise, without which they are 
displeasant, hurtful and dangerous, working his destruction and 
dishonour who possesseth them. And therefore right good 
counsel gave Prometheus in Hesiodus to his brother Epimetheus 
in this one point: 

Receive no gifts at any time, 

Which heavenly Jove shall lend: 
But see thou do refuse them all, 

And back again them send. 

Meaning thereby these outward goods of fortune's gift, as if he 
would have said: Go not about to play upon a flute, if thou 
have no knowledge in music ; nor to read if thou know never a 
letter in the book; mount not on horseback, unless thou canst 
tell how to sit him and ride; and even so he advised him thereby 
not to seek for office and place of government in commonweal, 
wanting wit as he did ; nor to lay for riches, so long as he bare 
a covetous mind and wist not how to be liberal; nor to marry 
a wife, for to be his master and to lead him by the nose: for 
not only wealth and prosperity happening above desert unto 
unadvised folk, giveth occasion (as Demosthenes said) unto 
them for to commit many follies; but also worldly happiness 
beyond all reason and demerit, causeth such as are not wise 
to become unhappy and miserable in the end. 



[In this brief treatise concerning envy and hatred, Plutarch, after 
he hath shewed in general terms that they be two different vices, 
and declared withal the properties of the one and the other, proveth 
this difference by divers reasons and arguments ranged in their 
order: he discovereth the nature of envious persons and malicious; 
and sheweth by a proper similitude that the greatest personages in 
the world be secured from the claws and paws of envious persons, 
and yet for all that, cease not to have many enemies. And verily 
it seemeth that the author began this little work especially for to 
beat down envy, and that the infamy thereof might so much more 
appear, in comparing and matching it with another detestable vice, 
the which notwithstanding he saith is less enormous than it.] 

It seemeth at the first sight that there is no difference between 
envy and hatred, but that they be both one. For vice (to speak 
in general) having (as it were) many hooks or crotchets, by 
means thereof as it stirreth to and fro, it yieldeth unto those 
passions which hang thereto many occasions and opportunities 
to catch hold one of another, and so to be knit and interlaced 
one within the other; and the same verily (like unto diseases 
of the body) have a sympathy and fellow-feeling one of another's 
distemperature and inflammation: for thus it cometh to pass, 
that a malicious and spightful man is as much grieved and 
offended at the prosperity of another as the envious person: 
and so we hold that benevolence and goodwill is opposite unto 
them both, for that it is an affection of a man wishing good 
unto his neighbour: and envy in this respect resembleth hatred, 
for that they have both a will and intention quite contrary unto 
love: but forasmuch as no things be the same, and the re- 
semblances between them be not so effectual to make them all 
one, as the differences to distinguish them asunder; let us 
search and examine the said differences, beginning at the very 
source and original of these passions. 

Hatred then, is engendered and ariseth in our heart upon an 
imagination and deep apprehension that we conceive of him 
whom we hate, that either he is naught and wicked in general 
to every man, or else intending mischief particularly unto our- 


Of Envy and Hatred 323 

selves: for commonly it falleth out, that those who think they 
have received some injury at such an one's hand, are disposed 
to hate him, yea, and those whom otherwise they know to be 
maliciously bent and wont to hurt others, although they have 
not wronged them, yet they hate and cannot abide to look upon 
them with patience; whereas ordinarily they bear envy unto 
such only as seem to prosper and to live in better state than 
their neighbours : by which reckoning it should seem that envy 
is a thing indefinite, much like unto the disease of the eyes 
ophthalmia, which is offended with the brightness of any light 
whatsoever; whereas hatred is determinate, being always 
grounded upon some certain subject matters respective to itself, 
and on them it worketh. Secondly, our hatred doth extend 
even to brute beasts ; for some you shall have who naturally 
abhor and cannot abide to see cats nor the flies cantharides, 
nor toads, nor yet snakes and any such serpents. As for 
Germanicus Caesar, he could not of all things abide either to see 
a cock or to hear him crow. The sages of Persia called their 
Magi, killed all their mice and rats, as well for that themselves 
could not away with them but detested them, as also because 
the god (forsooth) whom they worshipped had them in horror. 
And in truth, all the Arabians and Ethiopians generally hold 
them abominable. But envy properly is between man and man ; 
neither is there any likelihood at all that there should be im- 
printed envy in savage creatures one against another; because 
they have not this imagination and apprehension, that another 
is either fortunate or unfortunate, neither be they touched with 
any sense of honour or dishonour; which is the one thing that 
principally and most of all other giveth an edge and whetteth 
on envy; whereas it is evident that they hate one another, they 
bear malice and maintain enmity, nay, they go to war as against 
those that be disloyal, treacherous, and such as are not to be 
trusted : for in this wise do eagles war with dragons, crows with 
owls, and the little nonnet or tit-mouse flghteth with the linnet, 
insomuch, as by report, the very blood of them after they be 
killed will not mingle together; and that which is more, if you 
seem to mix them, they will separate and run apart again one 
from the other: and by all likelihood, the hatred that the lion 
hath to the cock, and the elephant also unto an hog, proceedeth 
from fear: for lightly that which creatures naturally fear, the 
same they also hate; so that herein also a man may assign 
and note the difference between envy and hatred, for that the 
nature of beasts is capable of the one but not of the other. 

324 Plutarch's Morals 

Over and besides, no man deserveth justly to be envied: for 
to be in prosperity and in better state than another, is no wrong 
or injury offered to any person; and yet this is it for which 
men be envied ; whereas contrariwise, many are hated worthily, 
such as those whom in Greek we call d^Lofita-rjTovs , that is to say, 
worthy of public hatred, as also as many as do not fly from such, 
detest them not nor abhor their company. And a great argu- 
ment to verify this point may be gathered from hence, namely, 
in that some there be who confess and take it upon them that 
they hate many; but no man will be known that he envieth any : 
for in truth, the hatred of wicked persons and of wickedness is 
commended as a quality in men praiseworthy. And to this 
purpose serveth well that which was said of Charillus, who 
reigned in Sparta, and was Lycurgus his brother's son, whom, 
when there were certain that commended for a man of mild 
behaviour and of a relenting and gentle nature: And how can 
it be (quoth he who was joined with him in the royal govern- 
ment) that Charillus should be good, seeing he is not sharp and 
rigorous to the wicked? And the poet Homer, describing the 
deformity of Thersytes his body, depainted his defects and 
imperfections in sundry parts of his person, and by many circum- 
locutions; but his perverse nature and crooked conditions he 
set down briefly and in one word, in this wise: 

Worthy Achilles of all the host 
And sage Ulysses, he hated most ; 

for he could not chuse but be stark naught and wicked in the 
highest degree, who was so full of hatred unto the best men. 
As for those who deny that they are envious, in case they be 
convinced manifestly therein, they have a thousand pretences 
and excuses therefore, alleging that they are angry with the 
man, or stand in fear of him whom indeed they bear envy unto, 
or that they hate him, colouring and cloaking this passion of 
envy with the veil of any other whatsoever for to hide and cover 
it, as if it were the only malady of the soul that would be con- 
cealed and dissembled. It cannot chuse, therefore, but that 
these two passions be nourished and grow as plants of one kind, 
by the same means, considering that naturally they succeed 
one the other: howbeit, we rather hate those that be given more 
to lewdness and wickedness, and we envy such rather who seem 
to excel others in virtue. And therefore Themistocles (being 
but a youth) gave out and said that he had done nothing notable, 
because as yet he was not envied : for like as the flies cantharides 

Of Envy and Hatred 325 

settle principally upon that wheat which is the fairest and come 
to full perfection; and likewise stick unto the roses that are 
most out, and in the very pride of their flowering; even so envy 
taketh commonly unto the best- conditioned persons, and to 
such as are growing to the height of virtue and honour: whereas 
contrariwise, the lewdest qualities that be, and wicked in the 
highest degree, do mightily move and augment hatred: and 
hereupon it was that the Athenians had them in such detestable 
hatred, and abhorred them so deadly, who by their slanderous 
imputations brought good Socrates their fellow-citizen to his 
death, insomuch as they would not vouchsafe either to give 
them a coal or two of fire, or light their candles, or deign them 
an answer when they asked a question; nay, they would not 
wash or bathe together with them in the same water, but com- 
manded those servitors in the bains which were called Parachytse, 
that is to say, drawers and laders of water into the bathing 
vessels, to let forth that as polluted and defiled wherein they 
had washed; whereupon they seeing themselves thus excom- 
municate and not able to endure this public hatred which they 
had incurred, being weary of their lives, hung and strangled 

On the contrary side, it is often seen that the excellency of 
virtue, honour and glory, and the extraordinary success of men 
is so much, that it doth extinguish and quench all envy. For it 
is not a likely or credible matter that any man bare envy unto 
Cyrus or Alexander the Great, after they were become the only 
lords and monarchs of the whole world: but like as the sun, 
when he is directly and plumb over the head or top of anything, 
causeth either no shadow at all, or the same very small and 
short, by the reason that his light overspreadeth round about; 
even so, when the prosperity of a man is come to the highest 
point and have gotten over the head of envy, then the said 
envy retireth and is either gone altogether, or else drawn within 
a little room by reason of that brightness overspreading it: 
but contrariwise the grandence of fortune and puissance in the 
enemies doth not one jot abbreviate or allay the hatred of their 
evil-willers; and that this is true may appear by the example 
of Alexander above named, who had not one that envied him, 
but many enemies he found, and those malicious, and by them 
in the end he was traitorously forlayed and murdered. 

Semblably, adversities may well stay envy and cause it cease, 
but enmity and hatred they do not abolish; for men never give 
over to despite their enemies, no, not when they are brought 

326 Plutarch's Morals 

low and oppressed with calamities; whereas you shall not see 
one in misery envied. But most true is that saying found of 
a certain sophister or great professor in our days : That envious 
persons of all other be ever pitiful and delight most in com- 
miseration: so that herein lieth one of the greatest differences 
between these two passions; that hatred departeth not from 
those persons of whom it hath once taken hold, neither in the 
prosperity nor adversity of those whom they hate; whereas 
envy doth avoid and vanish away to nothing upon extremity 
as well of the one as the other. 

Over and besides, we may the better discover the difference 
also of them by the contraries : for hatred, enmity, and malice 
cease presently so soon as a man is persuaded that he hath 
caught no harm nor sustained injury by the party; or when he 
hath conceived an opinion that such as he hated for their lewd- 
ness are reformed and become honest men; or thirdly, if he have 
received some pleasure or good turn at their hand : for evermore 
the last favour that is shewed (as Thucydides saith), though it 
be less than many others, yet if it come in season and a good 
time, is able to do out a greater offence taken before. Now of 
these three causes before specified, the first doth not wash away 
envy; for say that men were persuaded at the first that they 
received no wrong at all; yet they give not over for all that to 
bear envy still: and as for the two later, they do irritate and 
provoke it the rather: for such as they esteem men of quality 
and good worth, those they do eye-bite more than before, as 
having virtue the greatest good that is; and notwithstanding 
that they do reap commodity and find favour at their hands 
who prosper more than they, yet they grieve and vex thereat, 
envying them still both for their good mind to benefit them, 
and for their might and ability to perform the same; for that 
the one proceedeth from virtue, and the other from an happy 
estate, both which are good things. 

We may therefore conclude that envy is a passion far different 
from hatred, since it is so that wherewith the one is appeased 
and mollified, the other is made more exasperate and grievous. 
But let us consider a little in the end the scope and intention as 
well of the one as the other: Certes, the man that is malicious 
purposeth fully to do him a mischief whom he hateth; so that 
this passion is defined to be a disposition and forward will to spy 
out an occasion and opportunity to wait another a shrewd turn; 
but surely this is not in envy: for many there be who have an 
envious eye to their kinsfolk and companions, whom they would 

Of Envy and Hatred 327 

not for all the good in the world see either to perish or to fall 
into any grievous calamity; only they are grieved to see them 
in such prosperity, and would impeach what they can their 
power, and eclipse the brightness of their glory; marry, they 
would not procure nor desire their utter overthrow, nor any 
distresses remediless or extreme miseries ; but it would content 
and suffice them to take down their height, and as it were the 
upmost garret or turret of an high house which overlooketh 



[Among the dangerous effects of envy and hatred, this is not the 
least nor one of the last, that they shoot (as it were) from within our 
adversaries, for to slide and enter into us and take possession in 
our hearts, making us believe that we shall impeach one evil by 
another; which is as much as to desire to cleanse one ordure by a 
new, and to quench a great fire by putting into it plenty of oil. As 
for hatred, it hath another effect nothing less pernicious, in that 
it maketh us blind, and causeth us that we cannot tell at which end 
or turning to take our enemies, nor know ourselves how to re-enter 
into the way of virtue. Plutarch, willing to cut off such effects by 
the help of moral philosophy, taketh occasion to begin this discourse 
with a sentence of Xenophon; and proveth in the first place by 
divers similitudes: That a man may take profit by his enemies: 
and this he layeth abroad in particulars, shewing that their ambushes 
and inquisitions serve us in very great stead. After this, he teacheth 
us the true way how to be revenged of those that hate us, and what 
we ought to consider in blaming another. Now forasmuch as our 
life is subject to many injuries and calumniations, he instructeth 
us how a man may turn all to his own commodity: which done, 
he presenteth four remedies and expedient means against their 
slanderous language, and how we should confound our enemies: 
The first is, To contain our own tongues, without rendering evil for 
evil ; the second is, To do them good, to love and praise their virtues; 
the third, To outgo them in well-doing; and the last, To provide 
that virtue remain always on our side, in such sort, that if our 
enemies be vicious, yet we persist in doing good ; and if they carry 
some shew and appearance of goodness, we endeavour to be indeed 
and without all comparison better than they.] 

I see that you have chosen by yourself (0 Cornelius Pulcher) 
the meetest course that may be in the government of common- 
wealth; wherein having a principal regard unto the weal-public, 
you shew yourself most gracious and courteous in private to all 
those that have access and repair unto you. Now forasmuch 
as a man may well find some country in the world wherein there 
is no venomous beast, as it is written of Candie, but the manage- 
ment and administration of state affairs was never known yet 
to this day clear from envy, jealousy, emulation, and contention, 


Profiting by Our Enemies 329 

passions of all other most apt to engender and breed enmities, 
unto which it is subject; for that if there were nothing else, 
even amity and friendship itself is enough to entangle and 
encumber us with enmities j which wise Chilon the sage knowing 
well enough, demanded upon a time of one (who vaunted that 
he had no enemies) whether he had not a friend. In regard 
hereof a man of state and policy, in mine opinion (among many 
other things wherein he ought to be well studied) should also 
thoroughly know what belongeth to the having of enemies, and 
give good ear unto the saying of Xenophon, namely: That a 
man of wit and understanding is to make his profit and benefit 
by his enemies. And therefore, having gathered into a pretty 
treatise that which came into my mind of late, to discourse and 
dispute upon this matter, I have sent unto you written and 
penned in the very same terms as they were delivered, having 
this eye and regard as much as possible I could, not to repeat 
anything of that which heretofore I had written touching the 
politic precepts of governing the weal-public, for that I see that 
you have that book often in your hand. 

Our forefathers in the old world contented themselves in this : 
that they might not be wounded or hurt by strange and savage 
beasts brought from foreign countries, and this was the end of 
all those combats that they had against such wild beasts; but 
those who came after have learned, moreover, how to make use 
of them ; not only take order to keep themselves from receiving 
any harm or damage by them ; but (that which more is) have the 
skill to draw some commodity from them, feeding of their flesh, 
clothing their bodies with their wool and hair, curing and 
healing their maladies with their gall and rennet, arming them- 
selves with their hides and skins ; insomuch as now from hence- 
forth it is to be feared (and not without good cause) lest if beasts 
should fail, and that there were none to be found of men, their 
life should become brutish, poor, needy, and savage. And since 
it is so, that whereas other men think it sufficient not to be 
offended or wronged by their enemies, Xenophon writeth: 
That the wise reap commodity by their adversaries; we have 
no reason to derogate anything from his credit, but to believe 
him in so saying, yea, and we ought to search for the method 
and art to attain and reach unto that benefit, as many of us 
(at leastwise) as cannot possibly live in this world without 

The husbandman is not able with all his skill to make all sort 
of trees to cast off their wild nature, and become gentle and 

33° Plutarch's Morals 

domestical. The hunter cannot with all his cunning make tame 
and tractable all the savage beasts of the forest; and therefore 
they have sought and devised other means and uses to make 
the best of them; the one finding good in barren and fruitless 
plants, the other in wild and savage beasts. The water of the 
sea is not potable, but brackish and hurtful unto us, howbeit, 
fishes are nourished therewith, and it serveth man's turn also 
to transport passengers (as in a waggon) into all parts, and to 
carry whatsoever a man will. When the satyr would have 
kissed and embraced fire the first time that ever he saw it, 
Prometheus admonished him and said: 

Thou wilt bewail thy goat's beard soon, 
If thou it touch, 'twill burn anon; 

but it yieldeth light and heat, and is an instrument serving all 
arts, to as many as know how to use it well; semblably, let us 
consider and see whether an enemy, being otherwise harmful and 
intractable, or at leastwise hard to be handled, may not in some 
sort yield as it were a handle to take hold by, for to touch and 
use him so as he may serve our turn and minister unto us some 
commodity. For many things there are besides which be 
odious, troublesome, cumbrous, hurtful, and contrary unto 
those that have them or come near unto them; and yet you see 
that the very maladies of the body give good occasion unto 
some for to live at rest and repose; I mean sequestered from 
affairs abroad, and the travails presented unto others by fortune, 
have so exercised them that they are become thereby strong 
and hardy: and to say more yet, banishment and loss of goods 
hath been the occasion unto divers, yea, and a singular means 
to give themselves to their quiet study and to philosophy; like 
as Diogenes and Crates did in times past. Zeno himself, when 
news came unto him that his ship wherein he did venture and 
traffic was split and cast away: Thou hast done well by me, 
fortune (quoth he), to drive me again to my scholar's weed. 
For like as those living creatures which are of a most sound 
and healthful constitution, and have besides strong stomachs, 
are able to concoct and digest the serpents and scorpions which 
they devour; nay, some of them there be which are nourished 
of stones, scales, and shells, converting the same into their 
nutriment by the strength and vehement heat of their spirits; 
whereas such as be delicate, tender, soft, and crazy, are ready 
to cast and vomit if they taste a little bread only, or do but sip 
of wine; even so foolish folk do mar and corrupt even friendship 

Profiting by Our Enemies 331 

and amity; but those that are wise can skill how to use enmities 
to their commodity, and make them serve their turns. 

First and foremost therefore, in my conceit, that which in 
enmity is most hurtful may turn to be most profitable unto such 
as be wary and can take good heed : and what is that, you will 
say? Thine enemy, as thou knowest well enough, watcheth 
continually, spying and prying into all thine actions, he goeth 
about viewing thy whole life, to see where he may find any 
vantage to take hold of thee, and where thou liest open that he 
may assail and surprise thee; his sight is so quick that it 
pierceth not only through an oak, as Lynceus did, or stones 
and shells; but also it goeth quite through thy friend, thy 
domestical servants, yea, and every familiar of thine with 
whom thou daily dost converse, for to discover as much as 
possibly he can what thou doest or goeth about; he soundeth 
and searcheth by undermining and secret ways what thy 
designs and purposes be. As for our friends, it chanceth 
many times that they fall extreme sick, yea, and die thereupon 
before we know of it, whiles we defer and put off from day to 
day to go and visit them, or make small reckoning of them; 
but as touching our enemies we are so observant, that we 
curiously inquire and hearken even after their very dreams; 
the diseases, the debts, the hard usage of men to their own 
wives, and the untoward life between them, are many times 
more unknown unto those whom they touch and concern than 
unto their enemy; but above all, he sticketh close unto thy 
faults, inquisitive he is after them and those he traceth especially: 
and like as the geirs or vultures fly unto the stinking scent of 
dead carrions and putrefied carcases, but they have no smell or 
scent at all of bodies sound and whole; even so those parts of 
our life which are diseased, naught and ill-affected, be they that 
move an enemy; to these leap they in great haste who are our 
ill-willers, these they seize upon, and are ready to worry and 
pluck in pieces; and this it is that profiteth us most, in that it 
compelleth us to live orderly, to look unto our steps that we 
tread not awry, that we neither do nor say ought inconsiderately 
or rashly; but always keep our life unblamable, as if we 
observed a most strict and exquisite diet; and verily, this heedful 
caution, repressing the violent passions of our mind in this sort, 
and keeping reason at home within doors, engendereth a certain 
studious desire, an intention and will to live uprightly and 
without touch: for like as those cities by ordinary wars with 
their neighbour cities, and by continual expeditions and voyages, 

332 Plutarch's Morals 

learning to be wise, take a love at length unto good laws and 
sound government of state; even so they that by occasion of 
enmity be forced to live soberly, to save themselves from the 
imputation of idleness and negligence, yea, and to do everything 
with discretion and to a good and profitable end, through use 
and custom shall be brought by little and little (ere they be 
aware) unto a certain settled habit that they cannot lightly trip 
and do amiss, having their manners framed in passing good 
order, with the least helping hand of reason and knowledge 
beside; for they who have evermore readily before their eyes 
this sentence: 

This were alone for Priamus, 

And his sons likewise all, 
Oh, how would they rejoice at heart, 

In case this should befall, 

certes, would quickly be diverted, turned and withdrawn from 
such things, whereat their enemies are wont to joy and laugh a 
good: see we not many times stage players, chanters, musicians, 
and such artificers in open theatres, who serve for the celebration 
of any solemnity unto Bacchus or other gods, to play their parts 
carelessly, to come unprovided, and to carry themselves I know 
not how negligently, nothing forward to shew their cunning and 
do their best, when they are by themselves alone and no other 
of their own profession in place? but if it chance that there be 
emulation and contention between them and other concurrents 
who shall do best, then you shall see them not only to come 
better prepared themselves, but also with their instruments in 
very good order; then shall you perceive how they will bestir 
themselves in trying their strings, in tuning their instruments 
more exactly, and in fitting everything about their flutes and 
pipes, and assaying them. He then who knoweth that he hath 
an enemy ready and provided to be the concurrent in his life, 
and the rival of his honour and reputation, will look better to 
his ways and stand upon his own guard; he will (I say) sit fast 
and look circumspectly about him to all matters, ordering his 
life and behaviour in better sort : for this is one of the properties 
of vice, that when we have offended and trespassed, we have 
more reverence and stand rather in awe of our enemies lest we 
be shamed by them than of our friends. And therefore, Scipio 
Nasica, when some there were that both thought and gave out 
that the Roman estate was now settled and in safety, considering 
that the Carthaginians, who were wont to make head against 
them and keep them occupied, were now vanquished and de- 

Profiting by Our Enemies 333 

feated, the Athenians likewise subdued and brought under 
subjection: Nay, marry (quoth he), for it is clean contrary, 
and even now are we in greatest danger, being at this pass that 
we have left ourselves none to fear, none to reverence. 

And hereto, moreover, accordeth well the answer that Diogenes 
made, like a philosopher and a man of state indeed : One asked 
him how he should be revenged of his enemy: Marry (quoth he), 
by being a virtuous and honest man thyself. Men seeing the 
horses of their enemies highly accounted of, or their hounds 
praised and commended, do grieve thereat, if they perceive also 
their land well tilled and husbanded, or their gardens in good 
order, fresh, and flowering, they fetch a sigh and sorrow for the 
matter. What (think you then) will your enemy do ? how will 
he fare, when you shall be seen a just man, wise and prudent, 
honest and sober, in words well advised and commendable, in 
deeds pure and clean, in diet neat and decent? 

Reaping the fruit of wisdom and prudence, 
Sown in deep furrow of heart and conscience, 
From whence there spring and bud continually 
Counsels full sage, with fruits abundantly. 

Pindarus the poet said: That those who are vanquished and 
put to foil, are so tongue-tied that they cannot say a word; 
howbeit, this is not simply true, nor holdeth in all, but in such 
as perceive themselves overcome by their enemies, in diligence, 
goodness, magnanimity, humanity, bounty, and beneficence: 
for these be the things (as Demosthenes saith) which stent the 
tongue, close up the mouth, stop the wind-pipes and the breath, 
and in one word, cause men to be silent and dumb. 

Resemble not lewd folk, but them outgo 

In virtuous deeds, for this thou mayst well do. 

Wouldest thou do thine enemy who hateth thee a great dis- 
pleasure indeed ? Never call him by way of reproach, buggerer, 
wanton, lascivious, ruffian, scurrile scoffer, or covetous micher; 
but take order with thyself to be an honest man every way, 
chaste, continent, true in deed and word, courteous and just 
to all those that deal with thee : but if thou be driven to let fall 
an opprobrious speech, and to revile thine enemy, then take 
thou great heed afterwards that thou come not near in any wise 
to those vices which thou reproachest him with, enter into 
thyself, and examine thine own conscience, search all the corners 
thereof, look that there be not in thy soul some putrefied matter 
and rotten corruption, for fear lest thine own vice within may 

334 Plutarch's Morals 

hit thee home, and requite thee again with this verse out of the 

tragical poet: 

A leech he is, others to cure, 
Pester'd himself with sores impure. 

If thou chance to upbraid thine enemy with ignorance, and 
call him unlearned, take thou greater pains at thy book, love 
thou thy study better, and get more learning: if thou twit him 
with cowardice, and name him dastard, stir up the vigour of 
thine own courage the rather, and shew thyself a man so much 
the more ; hast thou given him the terms of beastly whoremaster 
or lascivious lecher, wipe out of thy heart the least taint and 
spot that remaineth hidden therein of concupiscence and sen- 
suality; for nothing is there more shameful or causeth greater 
grief of heart, than an opprobrious and reproachful speech 
returned justly upon the author thereof. And as it seemeth 
that the reverberation of a light doth more offence unto the 
feeble eyes, even so those reproaches which are retorted and 
sent back again by the truth, upon a man that blazed them 
before, are more offensive : for no less than the north-east wind 
Gecias doth gather unto it clouds, so doth a bad life draw unto 
it opprobrious speeches; which Plato knowing well enough, 
whensoever he was present in place, and saw other men do any 
unseemly or dishonest thing, was wont to retire apart, and say 
thus secretly unto himself : Do not I also labour otherwhile of this 
disease ? Moreover, he that hath blamed and reproached the 
life of another, if presently withal he would go and examine his 
own, reforming the same accordingly, redressing and amending 
all that he finds amiss, until he have brought it to a better state, 
shall receive some profit by that reproving and reviling of his; 
otherwise it may both seem (as it is no less indeed) a vain and 
unprofitable thing. 

Commonly men cannot choose but laugh when they see either 
a bald-pate or a hunch-back to taunt and scoff at others for the 
same defects or deformities ; and so in truth, it were a ridiculous 
thing and a mere mockery, to blame or reproach another in that 
for which he may be mocked and reproached himself. Thus 
Leo the Byzantine cut one home that was crumped-shouldered 
and hunched-backed, when he seemed to hit him in the teeth with 
his dim and feeble eyesight: Dost thou twit me (quoth he) by 
any imperfection of nature incident unto a man, whenas thyself 
art marked from heaven, and earnest the divine vengeance upon 
thy back? Never then reprove thou an adulterer, if thyself be 
an unclean wanton with boys; nor seem thou to upbraid one 

Profiting by Our Enemies 335 

with prodigality, if thou be a covetous miser thyself. Alcmaeon 
reviled Adrastus (upon a time) in this wise: Thou 

A sister hast by parents twain, 

Whose hands her husband dear have slain. 

But what answered Adrastus? He objected not unto him the 
crime of another, but payeth him home with his own, after this 
manner : 

But thou thyself hast murder'd 

Thine own kind mother, who thee bred. 

In like sort, when Domitius (upon a time) seemed to reproach 
Crassus, saying: Is it not true, that when your lamprey was 
dead which was kept full daintily for you in a stew, you wept 
therefore? Crassus presently came upon him again with this 
bitter reply: And is it not true, that you, when you followed 
three wives of yours one after another to their funeral fire, never 
shed tear for the matter? It is not so requisite or necessary 
iwis (as the vulgar sort do think) that he who checketh and 
rebuketh another should have a ready wit of his own and a 
natural gift in doing it, or a loud and big voice, or an audacious 
and bold face ; no, but such an one he ought to be, that cannot 
be noted and taxed with any vice: for it should seem that 
Apollo addressed this precept of his [Know thyself] to no person 
so much as to him who would blame and find fault with another; 
for fear lest such men, in speaking to others what they would, 
hear that again which they would not. For it happeneth 
ordinarily as Sophocles saith: That such an one 

Who lets his tongue run foolishly, 
In noting others bitterly, 
Shall hear himself (unwillingly) 
The words he gave so wilfully. 

Lo, what commodity and profit ensueth upon reproaching an 
enemy ! 

Neither cometh there less good and advantage unto a man by 
being reproached by another, and hearing himself reviled by his 
enemies : and therefore it was well and truly said of Antisthenes, 
that such men as would be saved and become honest another 
day, ought of necessity to have either good friends, or most 
spiteful and bitter enemies : for as they with their kind remon- 
strances and admonitions, so these with their reproachful terms 
were like to reform their sinful life. But forasmuch as amity 
and friendship nowadays speaketh with a small and low voice 
when faults should freely be reproved, and is very audible and 
full of words in flattering, altogether mute and dumb in rebukes 


Plutarch's Morals 

and chastisements ; but what remaineth now but that we should 
hear the truth from the mouth of our enemies ? much like unto 
Telephus, who for default of a physician that was a friend to 
cure him, was forced to commit his wound or ulcer to the iron 
head of his enemy's spear for to be healed; and even so those 
that have no well-willers that dare freely reprove their faults, 
must perforce endure with patience the stinging tongue of their 
enemy and evil-wilier in chastising and rebuking their vices, 
not regarding so much the intent and meaning of the ill speaker, 
as the thing itself, and the matter that he speaketh; and look 
how he who enterprised the killing of Prometheus the Thessalian 
ran him so deep with his sword into the impostume or swelling 
botch which he had about him, that he let forth the corruption, 
and saved his life by the breaking and issue thereof; even so for 
all the world it falleth out many times that a reproachful speech 
delivered in anger or upon evil will is the cause of healing some 
malady of the soul, either hidden or unknown altogether, or else 
neglected: but the most part of those who are in this manner 
reproached, never consider whether the vice wherewith they are 
touched be in them or no, but they look rather if they can find 
some other vice to object unto him who hath thus challenged 
them; and much like unto wrestlers, they never wipe away 
their own dust, that is to say, the reproaches that be fastened 
upon themselves, and wherewith they be defamed, but they 
bestrew one another with dust, and afterwards trip up one 
another's heels, and tumble down one upon another, weltering 
in the same, and soiling one another therewith : whereas indeed 
it behoved rather that a man when he findeth himself tainted 
by his enemy, to endeavour for to do away that vice where- 
with he is noted and defamed, much rather than to fetch out 
any spot or stain out of his garment which hath been shewed 
him: and although there be charged upon us some slanderous 
imputation that is not true, yet nevertheless we are to search 
into the occasion whereupon such an opprobrious speech might 
arise and proceed, yea, and take heed we must and fear, lest ere 
we be aware we commit the like or come near unto that which 
hath been objected unto us. 

Thus, for example sake, Lacydes, king of the Argives, for that 
he did wear his hair curiously set, in manner of a peruke, and 
because his gait or manner of going seemed more delicate and 
nice than ordinary, grew into an ill name and obloquy of 
effeminate wantonness. And Pompeius the Great could not 
avoid the like suspicion, because he used otherwhiles to scratch 

Profiting by Our Enemies 337 

his head with one finger only, and yet otherwise he was so far 
from feminine wantonness and incontinence as any man in the 
world. Crassus was accused for to have had carnal company 
with one of the religious nuns or votaries of Vesta, for that being 
desirous to purchase of her a fair piece of land and house of 
pleasure which she had, he resorted oftentimes privately unto 
her, spake with her apart, and perhaps made court unto her 
for to have her goodwill in that respect only. Posthumia like- 
wise, another vestal virgin, for that she was given much to 
laugh upon a small occasion, and withal would not stick to 
entertain talk with men, more boldly peradventure than became 
a maiden of her profession, was so deeply suspected of incon- 
tinence, that she was brought judicially into question about it, 
howbeit found unguilty, and acquit she was ; but when Spurius 
Minutius, the high-priest for the time being, assoiled her and 
pronounced the sentence of her absolution, minding to dismiss 
her of the court, he gave her a gentle admonition by the way, 
that from thenceforward she should forbear to use any words 
less modest and chaste than the carriage of her life was. Themis- 
tocles likewise, notwithstanding he was most innocent indeed, 
was called into question for treason because he entertained 
amity with Pausanias, sent and wrote oftentimes unto him, and 
so by that means gave suspicion that he minded to betray all 

Whenas therefore thou art charged with a false crimination 
by thine enemy, thou must not neglect it and make small 
account thereof because it is not true, but rather look about 
thee and examine what hath been done or said, either by thee 
or any one of those who affect and love thee, or converse with 
thee, sounding and tending any way to that imputation which 
might give occasion or likelihood thereof, and carefully to 
beware and avoid the same : for if by adverse and heavy fortune 
whereunto others have inconsiderately fallen, they are dearly 
taught what is good for them, as Merope saith in one tragedy: 

Fortune hath taken for her salary 
My dearest goods of which I am bereft, 
But me she taught by that great misery 
For to be wise, and so she hath me left: 

what should let or hinder us, but that we may learn by a 
master that costeth us nought, nor taketh nothing for his 
teaching (even our enemy) to profit and learn somewhat that we 
knew not before? for an enemy perceiveth and findeth in us 
many things more than a friend, by reason that (as Plato saith) 

338 Plutarch's Morals 

that which loveth is always blind in the thing that is loved; 
whereas he who hateth us, besides that he is very curious and 
inquisitive into our imperfections, he is not meal-mouthed (as 
they say), nor will spare to speak, but is ready enough to 
divulge and blaze all abroad. King Hiero chanced upon a time, 
being at words with one of his enemies, to be told in reproachful 
manner by him of his stinking breath; whereupon being some- 
what dismayed in himself, he was no sooner returned home to 
his own house but he chid his wife: How comes this to pass 
(quoth he) ? what say you to it ? how happeneth it that you never 
told me of it? The woman being a simple, chaste, and harmless 
dame: Sir (saith she), I had thought all men's breath had 
smelled so. Thus it is plain that such faults as be object and 
evident to the senses, gross and corporal, or otherwise notorious 
to the world, we know by our enemies sooner than by our friends 
and familiars. 

Over and besides, as touching the continence and holding of 
the tongue, which is not the least point of virtue, it is not possible 
for a man to rule it always, and bring it within the compass and 
obedience of reason, unless by use and exercise, by long custom 
and painful labour he have tamed and mastered the worst 
passions of the soul, such as anger is: for a word that hath 
escaped us against our wills, which we would gladly have kept 
in; of which Homer saith thus: 

Out of the mouth a word did fly 
For all the range of teeth fast-by. 

And a speech that we let fall at aventure (a thing happening 

oftentimes, and especially unto those whose spirits are not well 

exercised, and who want experience, who run out, as it were, 

and break forth into passions), this (I say) is ordinary with such 

as be hasty and choleric, whose judgment is not settled and 

staid, or who are given to a licentious course of life : for such a 

word, being (as divine Plato saith) the lightest thing in the 

world, both gods and men have many a time paid a most 

grievous and heavy penalty; whereas silence is not only (as 

Hippocrates saith) good against thirst, but also is never called 

to account, nor amerced to pay any fine; and that which more 

is, in the bearing and putting up of taunts and reproaches, there 

is observed in it a kind of gravity beseeming the person of 

Socrates, or rather the magnanimity of Hercules, if it be true 

that the poet said of him: 

Of bitter words he less account did make 
Than doth the fly, which no regard doth take. 

Profiting by Our Enemies 339 

Neither verily is there a thing of greater gravity, or simply better, 

than to hear a malicious enemy to revile, and yet not to be 

moved nor grow into passions therewith: 

But to pass by a man that loves to rail. 
As rock in sea, by which we swim or sail. 

Moreover, a greater effect will ensue upon this exercise of 
patience, if thou canst accustom thyself to hear with silence 
thine enemy whiles he doth revile; for being acquainted there- 
with, thou shalt the better endure the violent fits of a curst 
and shrewd wife chiding at home; to hear also without trouble 
the sharp words of friend or brother; and if it chance that father 
or mother let fly bitter rebukes at thee or beat thee, thou wilt 
suffer all, and never shew thyself displeased and angry with 
them. For Socrates was wont to abide at home Xantippe his 
wife, a perilous shrewd woman and hard to be pleased, to the 
end that he might with more ease converse with others, being 
used to endure her curstness. But much better it were for a 
man to come with a mind prepared and exercised beforehand 
with hearing the scoffs, railing language, angry taunts, out- 
rageous and foul words of enemies and strangers, and that 
without anger and shew of disquietness, than of his domestical 
people within his own house. Thus you see how a man may- 
shew his meekness and patience in enmities; and as for sim- 
plicity, magnanimity and a good nature indeed, it is more seen 
here than in friendship : for it is not so honest and commendable 
to do good unto a friend, as dishonest, not to succour him when 
he standeth in need and requesteth it. 

Moreover, to forbear to be revenged of an enemy if oppor- 
tunity and occasion is offered, and to let him go when he is in 
thy hands, is a point of great humanity and courtesy; but him 
that hath compassion of him when he is fallen into adversity, 
succoureth him in distress, at his request is ready for to shew 
goodwill to his children, and an affection to sustain the state of 
his house and family being in affliction; whosoever doth not 
love for this kindness, nor praise the goodness of his nature: 

Of colour black (no doubt) and tincture sweart, 
Wrought of stiff steel or iron he hath an heart, 
Or rather forg'd out of the diament, 
Which will not stir hereat, nor once relent. 

Caesar commanded that the statues erected in the honour of 
Pompeius, which had been beaten down and overthrown, should 
be set up again; for which act Cicero said thus unto him: In 
rearing the images of Pompeius, O Coesar, thou hast pitched and 

34° Plutarch's Morals 

erected thine own. And therefore we ought not to be sparing 
of praise and honour in the behalf of an enemy, especially when 
he deserveth the same; for by this means the party that 
praiseth shall win the greater praise himself; and besides, if it 
happen again that he blame the said enemy, his accusation shall 
be the better taken, and carry the more credit, for that he shall 
be thought not so much to hate the person as disallow and 
mislike his action. 

But the most profitable and goodliest matter of all is this: 
That he who is accustomed to praise his enemies, and neither 
to grieve nor envy at their welfare, shall the better abide the 
prosperity of his friend, and be furthest off from envying his 
familiars in any good success or honour that by well-doing they 
have achieved. And is there any other exercise in the world 
that can bring greater profit unto our souls, or work a better 
disposition and habit in them, than that which riddeth us of 
emulation and the humour of envy ? For like as in a city wherein 
there be many things necessary, though otherwise simply evil, 
after they have once taken sure footing and are by custom 
established in manner of a law, men shall hardly remove and 
abolish, although they have been hurt and endamaged thereby ; 
even so enmity, together with hatred and malice, bringeth in envy, 
jealousy, contentment, and pleasure in the harm of an enemy, 
remembrance of wrongs received, and offences passed, which it 
leaveth behind in the soul when itself is gone; over and besides, 
cunning practices, fraud, guile, deceit, and secret forlayings or 
ambushes, which seem against our enemies nothing ill at all, 
nor unjustly used, after they be once settled and have taken 
root in our hearts, remain there fast, and hardly or unneth are 
removed; insomuch as if men take not heed how they use them 
against enemies, they shall be so inured to them that they will 
be ready afterwards to practise the same with their very 

If therefore Pythagoras did well and wisely in acquainting his 
scholars to forbear cruelty and injustice, even as far as to dumb 
and brute beasts; whereupon he misliked fowlers, and would 
request them to let those birds fly again which they had caught; 
yea, and buy of fishers whole draughts of fishes, and give order 
unto his disciples to put them alive into the water again, inso- 
much as he expressly forbade the killing of any tame beast 
whatsoever; certes, it is much more grave and decent that in 
quarrels, debates, and contentions among men, an enemy that is 
of a generous mind, just, true, and nothing treacherous, should 

Profiting by Our Enemies 341 

repress, keep down and hold under foot the wicked, malicious, 
cautelous, base, and ungentleman-like passions ; to the end that 
afterwards in all contracts and dealings with his friend they 
break not out, but that his heart being clear of them, he may 
abstain from all mischievous practices. 

Scaurus was a professed enemy and an accuser of Domitius 
judicially ; now there was a domestical servant belonging to the 
said Domitius, who before the day of trial and judgment came 
unto Scaurus saying that he would discover unto him a thing 
that he knew not of, the which might serve him in good stead 
when he should plead against his master; but Scaurus would 
not so much as give him the hearing; nay, he laid hold on the 
party, and sent him away bound unto his lord and master. 
Cato (the younger) charged Muraena, and indicted him in open 
court for popularity and ambition, declaring against him that 
he sought indirectly to gain the people's favour and their voices 
to be chosen consul; now as he went up and down to collect 
arguments and proofs thereof, and according to the manner and 
custom of the Romans, was attended upon by certain persons 
who followed him in the behalf of the defendant, to observe what 
was done for his better instruction in the process and suit com- 
menced, these fellows would oftentimes be in hand with him 
and ask whether he would to-day search for ought, or negotiate 
anything in the matter and cause concerning Mursena? If he 
said No, such credit and trust they reposed in the man that they 
would rest in that answer, and go their ways; a singular argu- 
ment this was of all other to prove his reputation, and what 
opinion men conceived of him for his justice; but sure a far 
greater testimony is this, and that passeth all the rest, to prove 
that if we be accustomed to deal justly by our very enemies, 
we shall never shew ourselves unjust, cautelous, and deceitful 
with our friends. But forasmuch as every lark (as Simonides 
was wont to say) must needs have a cop or crest growing upon 
her head; and so likewise all men by nature do carry in their 
head I wot not what jealousy, emulation and envy, which is, if 
I may use the words of Pindarus : 

A mate and fellow (to be plain) 

Of brain-sick fools and persons vain. 

A man should not reap a small benefit and commodity by dis- 
charging these passions upon his enemies, to purge and cleanse 
himself quite thereof, and as it were by certain gutters or channels, 
to derive and drain them as far as possibly he can from his 

34 2 Plutarch's Morals 

friends and familiar acquaintance; whereof I suppose Onoma- 
demus, a great politician and wise statesman in the isle Chios, 
was well advised, who in a civil dissension being sided to that 
faction which was superior, and had gotten the head of the 
other, counselled the rest of his part not to chase and banish 
out of the city all their adversaries, but to leave some of them 
still behind: For fear (quoth he) lest having no enemies to 
quarrel withal, we ourselves begin to fall out and go together 
by the ears ; semblably if we spend these vicious passions of ours 
upon our enemies, the less are they like to trouble and molest 
our friends : for it ought not thus to be as Hesiodus saith : That 
the potter should envy the potter; or one minstrel or musician 
spite another; neither is it necessary that one neighbour should 
be in jealousy of another; or cousins and brethren be con- 
currents and have emulation one at another, either striving to 
be rich or speeding better in their affairs : for if there be no other 
way or means to be delivered wholly from contentions, envies, 
jealousies, and emulations, acquaint thyself at leastwise to be 
stung and bitten at the good success of thine enemies; whet 
the edge and sharpen the point (as it were) of thy quarrellous 
and contentious humour, and turn it upon them and spare not: 
for like as the most skilful and best gardeners are of this opinion, 
that they shall have the sweeter roses and more pleasant violets 
if they set garlick or sow onions near unto them, for that all the 
strong and stinking savour in the juice that feedeth and nourish 
the said flowers, is purged away and goeth to the said garlick 
and onions; even so an enemy drawing unto himself and 
receiving all our envy and malice, will cause us to be better 
affected to our friends in their prosperity, and less offended if 
they outgo us in their estate; and therefore in this regard 
we must contend and strive with our enemies about honour, 
dignities, government, and lawful means of advancing our own 
estates, and not only to be grieved and vexed to see them have 
the better and the vantage of us, but also to mark and observe 
everything whereby they become our superiors, and so to strain 
and endeavour by careful diligence, by labour and travail, by 
parsimony, temperance, and looking nearly to ourselves, to sur- 
pass and go beyond them; like as Themistocles was wont to say: 
That the victory which Miltiades achieved in the plain of 
Marathon brake his sleeps, and would not let him take his 
night's rest: for he who thinketh that his enemy surmounteth 
him in dignities, in patronage of high matters and pleading of 
great causes, in management of state affairs, or in credit and 

Profiting by Our Enemies 343 

authority with mighty men and grand seigniors, and instead of 
striving to enterprise and do some great matter by way of 
emulation, betaketh himself to envy only, and so sits still doing 
nothing, and loseth all his courage, surely he bewrayeth that he 
is possessed with naught else but an idle, vain, and enervate 
kind of envy. 

But he that is not blinded with the regard and sight of him 
whom he hateth, but with a right and just eye doth behold and 
consider all his life, his manners, designs, words, and deeds, shall 
soon perceive and find that the most part of those things which 
he envieth were achieved and gotten by such as have them, with 
their diligence, wisdom, forecast, and virtuous deeds : he there- 
upon bending all his spirits and whole mind thereto, will exercise 
(I trow) and sharpen his own desire of honour, glory, and honesty, 
yea, and cut off contrariwise that yawning drowsiness and idle 
sloth that is in his heart. Set case, moreover, that our enemies 
by flattery, by cautelous shifts and cunning practices, by 
pleading of cases at the bar, or by their mercenary and illiberal 
service in unhonest and foul matters, seem to have gotten some 
power, either with princes in courts, or with the people in states 
and cities ; let the same never trouble us, but contrariwise cheer 
up our hearts and make us glad in regard of our own liberty, 
the pureness of our life and innocency unreproachable, which 
we may oppose against those indirect courses and unlawful 
means. For all the gold that is either above ground or under- 
neath (according as Plato saith) is not able to weigh against 
virtue. And evermore this sentence of Solon we ought to have 
in readiness: 

Many a wicked man is rich, 
And virtuous men are many poor: 
But change we never will with sich, 
Nor give our goodness for their store ; 
And why? virtue is durable, 
Whereas their wealth is mutable ; 

much less then will we exchange the acclamations and shouts 
of a popular multitude in theatres, which are won with a feast; 
nor the honours and prerogatives to sit uppermost at a table 
near unto the chamberlains, minions, favourites, concubines or 
lieutenants-general of kings and princes. For nothing is de- 
sirable, nothing to be effected, nothing indeed honest that 
proceedeth from an unhonest cause: But he that loveth (accord- 
ing as Plato saith) is always blinded by the thing which is loved, 
and sooner do we perceive and mark any unseemly thing that 

344 Plutarch's Morals 

our enemies do. Howbeit, to conclude, neither our joy and 
contentment conceived by observing them to do amiss, nor our 
grief and displeasure in seeing them do well, ought to be idle 
and unprofitable unto us; but this reckoning and account we 
are to make of both; that in taking heed how we fall into their 
faults we may become better, and in imitating their good parts 
not worse than they. 



[Hardly can it be denned whether of these two extremities is 
more to be feared, to wit, blockish stupidity or vain presumption, 
considering the dangerous effects proceeding as well from the one 
as the other. And contrariwise, an excellent matter it is to be able 
for to teach men the means to avoid both extremes, and to hold the 
mean between. And this is the very thing that our author doth 
in this present treatise: for as he laboureth to disrobe as it were 
the lovers of virtue and turn them out of their habit of perverse 
ignorance, wherewith most part of the world is always clad; so he 
is desirous to keep them from putting on the habiliment and gar- 
ments of pride and vain ostentation, that they might be arrgyed 
with the apparel of virtue, in such sort that in taking knowledge of 
that good whereof they have already some part, they might en- 
deavour and do what they can to get a greater portion from day to 
day, until they come unto an assured contentment wherein they 
may rest. Then teacheth he how to know what a man hath profited 
in the school and exercise of virtue, shewing that he ought to con- 
sider first, whether he recoil from vice by little and little; wherein 
he confuteth the opinion of the Stoics, who imagined that no man 
was good unless he became virtuous all at once. This done, he 
adjoineth four rules to know the said profit and progress in virtue, 
to wit, When we perceive our heart to tend unto good without 
any intermission: When our affection redeemeth and regaineth the 
time that is lost, growing so much the more, as it was before stayed 
and hindered : When we begin to take our whole pleasure and delight 
therein : lastly, When we surmount and overcome all impeachments 
that might turn us aside out of the way of virtue. After all this, 
he entereth into the matter more specially, and showeth how a man 
is to employ himself in the study of wisdom; what vices he ought 
to fly; wherein his mind and spirits should be occupied; and the 
profit that he is to reap and gather from philosophers, poets, and 
historians. Item, with what affection we ought to speak in the 
presence of our neighbours, whether it be publicly or in private; of 
what sort our actions should be; and to what end and scope we 
are to address and direct them, giving a lustre unto all these dis- 
courses by excellent similitudes; taxing and reproving the faults 
committed ordinarily by them who make a certain semblance and 
outward shew of aspiring unto virtue. Having thus discoursed of 



Plutarch's Morals 

these points aforesaid, he proposeth and setteth down again divers 
rules which may resolve us in this advancement and proceeding 
forward of ours in goodness, namely, That we ought to love repre- 
hensions; to take heed even unto our dreams; to examine our 
passions, and so to hope well if we perceive that they wax mild and 
gentle to imitate good things ; in no wise to hear any speech of evil ; 
to take example* by the best persons, to rejoice and be glad, to have 
witnesses and beholders of our goodwill and intention; and not to 
esteem any sins or trespasses small, but to avoid and shun them all : 
last of all, he closeth up his treatise with an elegant similitude, 
wherein he discovereth and layeth open the nature as well of the 
vicious as the virtuous, thereby to make the means of aspiring and 
attaining unto virtue so much the more amiable to each person.] 

It is not possible (my good friend Sossius Senecio) that a man 
by any means should have a feeling in himself, and a conscience 
of his own amendment and progress in virtue, if those good 
proceedings do not daily make some diminution of his folly, but 
that the vice in him weighing in equal balance against them all, 
do hold him down 

Like as the lead plucks down the net, 
Which for to catch the fish was set. 

For so verily in the art of music or grammar a man shall never 
know how far he is proceeded, so long as in the studying and 
learning thereof he diminish no part of his ignorance in those 
arts, but still findeth himself as unmusical and unlettered as he 
was before; neither the cure which the physician employeth 
about his patient, if it work no amendment at all, nor alleviation 
of the disease seeming in some sort to yield unto medicines and 
to slake, can procure any sensible difference and change unto a 
better state, before that the contrary disposition and habit be 
restored perfectly to the former health, and the body made 
sound and strong again. But certainly, as in these cases there 
is no amendment to be accounted of, if those that seem to 
amend do not perceive the change by the diminution and remis- 
sion of that which weighed them down, and find themselves to 
incline and bend (as it were) in a balance to the contrary; 
even so it fareth with those that make profession of philosophy; 
it cannot be granted that there is any progress or sense at all 
of profiting, so long as the soul cast not off by little and little 
and purge away her folly, but until such time as she can attain 
(forsooth) unto the sovereign and perfect good, continueth in the 
meanwhile fully possessed of vice and sin in the highest degree; 
for by this means it would follow, if at one instant and moment 

Of Proceeding in Virtue 347 

of time a wise man should pass from extreme wickedness unto 
the supreme and highest disposition of virtue : That he had all 
at once and in the minute of an hour fled vice and cast it from 
him fully, whereof in a long time before he was not able to be 
rid of one little portion. 

But you know full well already that those who hold such 
extravagant opinions as these make themselves work enough, 
and raise great doubts and questions about this point, namely, 
how a man should not perceive and feel himself when he is 
become wise, and be either ignorant or doubtful that this growth 
and increase cometh in long process of time by little and little, 
partly by addition of something, and partly by subtraction of 
other, until one arrive gently unto virtue, before he can perceive 
that he is going toward it. Now if there were so quick and 
sudden a mutation, as that he who was to-day morning most 
vicious should become in the evening as virtuous; and if there 
ever were known to happen unto any man such a change, that 
going to bed a very fool and so sleeping, should awake and rise 
a wise man, and taking his leave of yesterday's follies, errors, 
and deceits, say unto them: 

My lying dreams so vain, a-day, a-day, 

Nought worth you were, I now both see and say. 

Is it possible that such a one (I say) should be ignorant of this 
sudden change, and not perceive so great a difference in himself, 
nor feel how wisdom all at once hath thus lightened and illu- 
minated his soul ? For mine own part, I would rather think that 
one upon earnest prayer transformed by the power of the gods 
from a woman to a man (as the tale goes of Caeneus) should 
be ignorant of this metamorphosis, than he who of a coward, a 
fool, and a dissolute or loose person become hardy, wise, sober, 
and temperate ; or being transported from a sensual and beastly 
life unto a divine and heavenly life, should not mark the very 
instant wherein such a change did befall. But well it was said 
in old time : That the stone is to be applied and framed unto the 
rule, and not the rule or square unto the stone. And they (the 
Stoics, I mean) who are not willing to accommodate their 
opinions unto the things indeed, but wrest and force against the 
course of nature things unto their own conceits and suppositions, 
have filled all philosophy with great difficulties and doubtful 
ambiguities; of which this is the greatest: In that they will 
seem to comprise all men, excepting him only whom they imagine 
perfect, under one and the same vice in general: which strange 

348 Plutarch's Morals 

supposition of theirs hath caused that this progress and pro- 
ceeding to virtue, called HpoKoirrj, seemeth to be a dark and 
obscure riddle unto them, or a mere fiction little wanting of 
extreme folly; and those who by the means of this amendment 
be delivered from all passions and vices that be, are held thereby 
to be in no better state, nor less wretched and miserable, than 
those who are not free from any one of the most enormous vices 
in the world j and yet they refute and condemn their own selves ; 
for in the disputations which they hold in their schools they set 
the injustice of Aristides in equal balance to that of Phalaris; 
they make the cowardice and fear of Brasides all one with that 
of Dolon; yea, and compare the folly or error of Miletus and 
Plato together, as in no respect different; howbeit, in the whole 
course of their life and management of their affairs they decline 
and avoid those as implacable and intractable; but these they 
use and trust in their most important business as persons of 
great worth and regard : but we who know and see that in every 
kind of sin or vice, but principally in the inordinate and confused 
state of the soul, there be degrees according to more or less; 
and that herein differ our proceedings and amendments, accord- 
ing as reason by little and little doth illuminate, purge, and 
cleanse the soul in abating and diminishing evermore the 
viciosity thereof, which is the shadow that darkeneth it, are 
likewise fully persuaded that it is not without reason to be 
assured that men may have an evident sense and perceivance of 
this mutation, but as if they were raised out of some deep and 
dark pit, that the same amendment may be reckoned by degrees 
in what order it goeth forward. In which computation we may 
go first and foremost directly after this manner, and consider 
whether, like as they who under sail set their course in the main 
and vast ocean, by observing together with the length and space 
of time, the force of the wind that driveth them, do cast and 
measure how far they have gone forward in their voyage, namely, 
by a probable conjecture how much in such a time and with such 
a gale of wind it is like that they may pass ; so also in philosophy 
a man may give a guess and conjecture of his proceeding and 
going forward, namely, what he may gain by continual marching 
on still, without stay or intermission otherwhiles in the midst of 
the way, and then beginning afresh again to leap forward, but 
always keeping one pace, gaining and getting ground still by the 
guidance of reason. For this rule : 

If little still to little thou do add, 

A heap at length and mickle will be had, 

Of Proceeding in Virtue 349 

was not given respectively to the increase of sums of money 
alone, and in that point truly spoken, but it may likewise extend 
and reach to other things, and namely to the augmentation of 
virtue, to wit, when with reason and doctrine continual use and 
custom is joined, which maketh mastery and is effectual to bring 
any work to end and perfection ; whereas these intermissions at 
times without order and equality, and these cool affections of 
those that study philosophy, make not only many stays and lets 
in proceeding forward as it were in a journey, but that which is 
worse, cause going backward, by reason that vice, which ever- 
more lies in wait to set upon a man that idly standeth still never 
so little, haleth him a contrary way. True it is that the mathe- 
maticians do call the planets stationary, and say they stand still, 
while they cease to move forward ; but in our progress and pro- 
ceeding in philosophy, that is to say, in the correction of our 
life and manners, there can be admitted no interval, no pause 
or cessation, for that our wit naturally being in perpetual motion 
in manner of a balance, always casteth with the least thing that 
is, one way or other, willing of itself either to incline with the 
better or else is forcibly carried by the contrary to the worse. 
If then, according to tie oracle delivered unto the inhabitants 
of Cirrha, which willed them, if they minded afterwards to live 
in peace, they should make war both night and day without 
intermission, thou find in thyself and thine own conscience 
that thou hast fought continually with vice as well by night as 
by day, or at leastwise that thou hast not often left thy ward, 
and abandoned thy station in the garrison, nor continually 
admitted the heralds or messengers between coming from far 
as it were to parley and compound, to wit, pleasures, delights, 
negligences and amusements upon other matters, by all likeli- 
hood thou mayst with confidence and alacrity be assured to go 
forward and make an end of thy course behind. 

Moreover, say that there fall out some interruptions and stays 
between, that thou live not altogether canonically and like a 
philosopher; yet if thy latter proceedings be more constant than 
the former, and the fresh courses that thou takest longer than 
the other, it is no bad sign, but it testifieth that by labour and 
exercise idleness is conquered and sloth utterly chased away; 
whereas the contrary is a very ill sign, to wit, if by reason of 
many cessations and those coming thick one after another, the 
heat of the former affection be cooled, languish and weareth to 
nothing: for like as the shoot of a cane or reed, whiles it hath 
the full strength and greatest force putteth forth the first stem 

35° Plutarch's Morals 

reaching out in length, straight, even, smooth, and united in the 
beginning, admitting few knots in great distances between, to 
stay and put back the growth and rising thereof in height; but 
afterwards as if it were checked to mount up aloft by reason of 
short wind and failing of the breath, it is held down by many 
knots, and those near one to another, as if the spirit therein which 
coveteth upward found some inpeachment by the way, smiting 
it back, and causing it as it were to pant and tremble; even so 
as many as at first took long courses and made haste unto 
philosophy or amendment of life, and then afterwards meet 
eftsoons with stumbling-blocks, continually turning them out of 
the direct way, or other means to distract and pluck them aside, 
finding no proceeding at all to better them, in the end are weary, 
give over, and come short of their journey's end; whereas the 
other abovesaid hath his wings growing still to help his flight, and 
by reason of the fruit which he findeth in his course goeth on 
apace, cutteth off all pretences of excuse, breaketh through all 
lets (which stand as a multitude in the way to hinder his passage), 
which he doth by fine force and with an industrious affection to 
attain unto the end of his enterprise. And like as to joy and 
delight in beholding of beauty present is not a sign of love 
beginning, for a vulgar and common thing this is, but rather to 
be grieved and vexed when the same is gone or taken away; even 
so many there be who conceive pleasure in philosophy, and make 
semblance as if they had a fervent desire to the study thereof; 
but if it chance that they be a little retired from it by occasion 
of other business and affairs, that first affection which they 
took unto it vanisheth away, and they can well abide to be 
without philosophy: 

But he who feels indeed the prick 
Of love that pierceth near the quick, 

as one poet saith; will seem unto thee moderate and nothing 
hot in frequenting the philosophical school and conferring to- 
gether with thee about philosophy; but let him be plucked 
from it, and drawn apart from thee, thou shalt see him enflamed 
in the love thereof, impatient and weary of all other affairs and 
occupations; thou shalt perceive him even to forget his own 
friends, such a passionate desire he will have to philosophy. 
For we ought not so much to delight in learning and philosophy 
whiles we are in place, as we do in sweet odours, perfumes, and 
ointments, and when we are away and separated therefrom, 
never grieve thereat, nor seek after it any more; but it must 

Of Proceeding in Virtue 351 

imprint in our hearts a certain passion like to hunger and thirst 
when it is taken from us, if we will profit in good earnest and 
perceive our own progress and amendment; whether it be that 
marriage, riches, some friendship, expedition or warfare come 
between, that may drive him away and make separation, for 
the greater that the fruit is which he gathered by philosophy, so 
much the more will the grief be to leave and forgo it. 

To this first sign of progress in philosophy may be added 
another of great antiquity out of Hesiodus; which if it be not 
the very same, certes, it cometh near unto it, and this he 
deseribeth after this sort, namely, when a man findeth the way 
no more difficult, rough, and craggy, nor exceeding steep and 
upright, but easy, plain, with a gentle descent, as being indeed 
laid even and smooth by exercise, and wherein now there begins 
light clearly to appear and shine out of darkness, instead of 
doubts, ambiguities, errors, and those repentances and changes 
of mind incident unto those who first betake themselves to the 
study of philosophy; after the manner of them who, having 
left behind them a land which they know well enough, are 
troubled whiles they cannot descry and discover that for which 
they set sail and bend their course; for even so it is with these 
persons who, when they have abandoned these common and 
familiar studies whereto they were inured before they came, to 
learn, apprehend, and enjoy better, oftentimes in the very middle 
of their course are carried round about and driven to return 
back again the same way they came. Like as it is reported of 
Sexius, a noble man of Rome, who having given over the honour- 
able offices and magistracies in the city, for love of philosophy, 
afterwards finding himself much troubled in that study, and not 
able at the beginning to brook and digest the reasons and dis- 
courses thereof, was so perplexed that he went very near to have 
thrown himself into the sea out of a galley. 

The semblable example we read in histories of Diogenes the 
Sinopian, when he first went to the study and profession of 
philosophy: for when about the same time it chanced that the 
Athenians celebrated a public solemnity with great feasting and 
sumptuous fare, with theatrical plays and pastimes, meeting in 
companies and assemblies to make merry one with another, with 
revels and dances all night long, himself in an odd corner of the 
market-place lay lapped round in his clothes, purposing to take 
a nap and sleep ; where and when he fell into certain fantastical 
imaginations which did not a little turn and trouble his brains, 
yea, and break his heart, discoursing thus in his head: That he 

35 2 Plutarch's Morals 

upon no constraint or necessity should thus wilfully betake 
himself to a laborious and strange course of painful life, sitting 
thus by himself mopish, sequestered from all the world, and 
deprived of all earthly goods; In which thoughts and conceits 
of his he spied (as the report goeth) a little mouse creeping and 
running towards the crumbs that were fallen from his loaf of 
bread, and was very busy about them, whereupon he took heart 
again, reproved and blamed his own feeble courage, saying thus 
to himself: What sayest thou, Diogenes? Seest thou not this 
silly creature what good cheer it maketh with thy leavings? 
how merry she is whiles she feedeth thereupon? and thou (like 
a trim man indeed as thou art) dost wail, weep, and lament 
that thou drinkest not thyself drunk as those do yonder; nor 
lie in soft and delicate beds, richly set out with gay and costly 

Now when such temptations and distractions as these be 
return not often, but the rule and discourse of reason presently 
riseth up against them, maketh head, turneth upon them sud- 
denly again (as it were) in the chase and pursued in the route 
by enemies, and so quickly discomfiteth and dispatcheth the 
anxiety and despair of the mind, then a man may be assured 
that he hath profited indeed in the school of philosophy, and 
is well settled and confirmed therein. But forasmuch as the 
occasions which do thus shake men that are given to philosophy, 
yea, and otherwhiles pluck them a contrary way, do not only 
proceed from themselves by reason of their own infirmity and so 
gather strength ; but the sad and serious counsels also of friends, 
together with the reproofs and contradictory assaults made upon 
them by adversaries, between good earnest and game, do mollify 
their tender hearts, and make them to bow, bend, and yield, 
which otherwhiles have been able in the end to drive some alto- 
gether from philosophy, who were well entered therein: It may 
be thought no small sign of good proceeding, if one can endure 
the same meekly without being moved with such temptations, 
or any ways troubled and pinched when he shall hear the names 
and surnames of such and such companions and equals otherwise 
of his who are come to great credit and wealth in princes' courts; 
or be advanced by marriages, matching with wives who brought 
them good dowries and portions; or who are wont to go into 
the common hall of a city, attended upon and accompanied with 
a train and troop of the multitude, either to attain unto some 
place of government, or to plead some notable cause of great 
consequence : for he that is not disquieted, astonied, or overcome 

Of Proceeding in Virtue 353 

with such assaults, certain it is and we may be bold to conclude 
that he is arrested (as it were) and held sure as he ought to be 
by philosophy. For it is not possible for any to cease affecting 
and loving those things which the multitude doth so highly 
honour and adore, unless they be such as admire nothing else 
in the world but virtue. For to brave it out, to contest, and 
make head against men is a thing incident unto some by occasion 
of choler, unto others by reason of folly; but to contemn and 
despise that which others esteem with admiration, no man is able 
to perform without a great measure of true and resolute mag- 
nanimity: In which respect such persons, comparing their state 
with others, magnify themselves, as Solon did in these words : 

Many a wicked man is rich, 

And good men there be many poor: 

But we will not exchange with sich, 

Nor give our goodness for their store. 

For virtue ay is durable, 

Whereas riches be mutable. 

And Diogenes compared his peregrination and flitting from the 
city of Corinth to Athens, and again, his removing from Thebes 
to Corinth, unto the progresses and changes of abode that the 
great king of Persia was wont to make, who in the spring season 
held his court at Susis; in winter kept house at Babylon; and 
during summer passed the time and sojourned in Media. Agesi- 
laus hearing upon a time the said king of Persia to be named 
The great king : And why (quoth he) is he greater than myself ? 
unless it be that he is more just and righteous. And Aristotle, 
writing unto Antipater as touching Alexander the Great, said: 
That it became not him only to vaunt much and glorify himself 
for that his dominions were so great, but also any man else hath 
no less cause who is instructed in the true knowledge of the gods. 
And Zeno, seeing Theophrastus in great admiration because he 
had many scholars: Indeed (quoth he) his auditory or quire is 
greater than mine, but mine accordeth better and makes sweeter 
harmony than his. 

Whenas therefore thou hast so grounded and established in 
thine heart that affection unto virtue which is able to encounter 
and stand against all external things, when thou hast voided 
out of thy soul all envies, jealousies and what affections soever 
are wont either to tickle or to fret, or otherwise to depress and 
cast down the minds of many that have begun to profess 
philosophy; this may serve for a great argument and token that 
thou art well advanced forward, and hast profited much ; neither 

354 Plutarch's Morals 

is it a small sign thereof if thou perceive thy language to be 
changed from that it was wont to be; for all those who are 
newly entered into the school of philosophy (to speak generally) 
affect a kind of speech or style which aimeth at glory and vain 
ostentation: some you shall hear crowing aloud like cocks and 
mounting up aloft, by reason of their levity and haughty humour, 
unto the sublimity and splendour of physical things or secrets 
in nature; others take pleasure (after the manner of wanton 
whelps, as Plato saith) in tugging and tearing evermore what- 
soever they can catch or light upon; they love to be doing with 
litigious questions, they go directly to dark problems and 
sophistical subtleties, and most of them being once plunged in 
the quillits and quidities of logic, make that (as it were) a means 
or preparative to flesh themselves for sophistry: marry, there 
be who go all about collecting and gathering together sententious 
saws and histories of ancient times ; and as Anacharsis was wont 
to say : That he knew no other use that the Greeks had of their 
coined pieces of money but to tell and number them, or else to 
cast account and reckon therewith; even so do they nothing 
else but count and measure their notable sentences and sayings, 
without drawing any profit or commodity out of them : and the 
same befalleth unto them which one of Plato's familiars applied 
unto his scholars by way of allusion to a speech of Antiphanes: 
this Antiphanes was wont to say in merriment: That there was 
a city in the world, whereas the words, so soon as ever they were 
out of the mouth and pronounced, became frozen in the air by 
reason of the coldness of the place, and so when the heat of 
summer came to thaw and melt the same, the inhabitants might 
hear the talk which had been uttered and delivered in winter; 
even so (quoth he) it is with many of those who come to hear 
Plato when they be young; for whatsoever he speaketh and 
readeth unto them, it is very long ere they understand the same, 
and hardly when they are become old men : and even after the 
same sort it fareth with them abovesaid, who stand thus affected 
universally unto philosophy, until their judgment being well 
settled and grown to sound resolution, begin to apprehend those 
things which may deeply imprint in the mind a moral affection 
and passion of love, yea, and to search and trace those speeches 
whereof the tracks (as JEsop was wont to say) lead rather in 
than out. For like as Sophocles said merrily upon a time, by 
way of derision: That he would first cut off the haughty and 
stately invention of ^Eschylus, and then abridge his affected, 
curious, and artificial disposition, and in the third place change 

Of Proceeding in Virtue 355 

the manner and form of his elocution, which is most excellent, 
and fullest of sweet affections; even so, the students in philo- 
sophy, when they shall perceive that they pass from orations 
exquisitely penned and framed for ostentation in frequent and 
solemn assemblies, unto moral speeches, and those that touch- 
the quick, as well the mild and gentle motions as the hot and 
violent passions of the mind, then begin they indeed to lay 
down all pride and vanity, and profit truly in the school of 

Consider, then, not only in reading the works of philosophers, 
or in hearing their lectures, first and foremost, whether thou art 
not more attentive to the words than to the matter; or whether 
thou be not carried with a great affection to those who deliver a 
more subtle and curious composition of sentences, than such as 
comprise profitable, commodious, substantial and fleshy matters 
(if I may so say), but also in perusing poems, or taking in hand 
any history, observe well and take heed that there escape thee 
not any one good sentence tending properly to the reformation 
of manners or the alleviation of passions : for like as (according 
to Simonides) the bee settleth upon flowers for to suck out of 
it the yellow honey, whereas others love only their colour or 
pleasant scent, and neither care nor seek for anything else 
thereout; even so, when other men be conversant in poems for 
pleasure only and pastime, thou finding and gathering somewhat 
out thereof worth the noting, shalt seem at the first sight to 
have some knowledge already thereof by a certain custom and 
acquaintance with it, and a love taken unto it as a good thing 
and familiar unto thee. As for those that read the books of 
Plato and Xenophon, in no other regard but for the beauty of 
their gallant style, seeking for nought else but for the purity 
of speech and the very natural Attic language, as if they went 
to gather the thin dew or tender moss or down of herbs : What 
will you say of such? but that they love physic drugs, which 
have either a lovely colour or a pleasant smell only; but other- 
wise the medicinable virtues thereof and properties either to 
purge the body or mitigate any pain, they neither desire to 
know nor are willing to use. 

Moreover, such as are proceeded farther and profited more 
have the skill and knowledge how to reap fruit not only out of 
words spoken or books written, but also to receive profit out of 
all sights, spectacles, and what things soever they see, gathering 
from thence whatsoever is fit and commodious for their purpose; 
as it is reported of ^Eschylus and other such as he : For ^Eschylus, 

356 Plutarch's Morals 

being upon a time at the Isthmian games, beheld the fight of 
the sword-fencers that fought at sharp, and when one of the said 
champions had received a grievous wound, whereupon the whole 
theatre set up a cry, he jogging one that was by him (named 
Ion of Chios), See you not (quoth he) what use and exercise is 
able to do? the party himself that is hurt saith never a word, 
but the lookers-on cry out. Brasides chanced among dry figs 
to light upon a silly mouse that bit him by the finger, and when 
he had shaken her off and let her go, said thus to himself: See 
how there is nothing so little and so feeble but it is able to make 
shift and save its life, if it dare only defend itself. Diogenes, 
when he saw one make means to drink out of the ball of his 
hand, cast away the dish or cup that he carried in his budget. 
Lo, how attentive taking heed and continual exercise maketh 
men ready and apt to mark, observe and learn from all things 
that make any way for their good. And this they may the 
rather do when they join words and deeds together, not only 
in that sort (as Thucydides speaketh of) by meditating and 
exercising themselves with the experience of present perils, but 
also against pleasures, quarrels, and altercations in judgments 
about defences of causes and magistracies; as making proof 
thereby of the opinions that they hold, or rather by carriage of 
themselves, teaching others what opinions they are to hold. 
For such as yet be learners, and notwithstanding that, inter- 
meddle in affairs like pragmatical persons, spying how they may 
catch anything out of philosophy, and go therewith incon- 
tinently in manner of jugglers with their box, either into the 
common place and market or into the school which young men 
frequent, or else to princes' tables, there to set them abroad; 
we are not to think them philosophers, no more than those to 
be physicians who only sell medicinable spices, drugs or com- 
pound confections ; or to speak more properly, such a sophister 
or counterfeit philosopher as this resembleth the bird that Homer 
describeth, which forsooth, so soon as he hath gotten anything, 
carrieth it to his scholars (as the said bird doth in her mouth 
convey meat to her naked young ones that cannot fly): 

And so himself he doth beguile, 

And thereby take much harm the while, 

converting and distributing naught of all that which he hath 
gotten to his own nourishment, nor so much as concocting and 
digesting the same: and therefore we ought of necessity to 
regard and consider well whether we use any discourse and place 

Of Proceeding in Virtue 357 

our words so, that for ourselves they may do good; and in 
regard of others make no shew of vainglory nor ambitious desire 
to be known abroad, but only of an intention rather to hear, or 
else to teach. 

But principally we are to observe whether our wrangling 
humour and desire to be cavilling about questions disputable 
be allayed in us or no, as also whether we have yet given over 
to devise reasons and arguments to assail others; like as 
champions armed with hurlbats of tough leather about their 
arms, and balls in their hands, to annoy their concurrents, taking 
more pleasure and delight to fell and astonish with one rap our 
adversary, and so to lay him along on the earth, than to learn 
or teach him : for surely modesty, mildness, and courtesy in this 
kind will do w T ell; and when a man is not willing to enter into 
any conference or disputation, with a purpose to put down and 
vanquish another, nor to break out into fits of choler, nor having 
evicted his adversary, to be ready as they say to tread and 
trample him under foot, nor to seem displeased and discontent if 
himself have the foil and be put to the worst, be all good signs 
of one that hath sufficiently profited. And this shewed Aris- 
tippus very well upon a time when he was so hardly pressed 
and overlaid in a certain disputation, that he knew not what 
answer to make presently unto his adversary, a jolly bold and 
audacious sophister, but otherwise a brainsick fool and without 
all judgment: for Aristippus seeing him to vaunt himself, puffed 
up with vainglory, that he had put him to a non plus : Well 
(quoth he), I see that for this time I go away with the worse, 
but surely when I am gone I will sleep more soundly and quietly 
than you that have gotten the better. 

Moreover, we may also prove and sound ourselves, whether 
we have profited or no, even whiles we speak in public place; 
namely, if neither upon the sight of a greater audience than we 
looked for we shrink not for fear and false heart, nor contrari- 
wise be discouraged to see fewer come to hear our exercises than 
we hoped for; nor yet when we are to make a speech to the 
people, or before a great magistrate, we lose the opportunity 
thereof, for that we have not well premeditated thereof before, 
nor come provided of apt words to declare our mind, a thing 
that by report befell unto Demosthenes and Alcibiades: for 
Alcibiades, as he was passing ingenious and inventive of matter, 
so he wanted audacity, and was not so ready as some other 
to utter the same, but troubled eftsoons in his pleading and 
delivery of it, insomuch as many times in the very midst of his 

358 Plutarch's Morals 

oration he would be out and to seek for a proper and fit term 
to express the conception of his mind, or else to recover that 
word again which was slipt and escaped out of his memory. 
As for Homer, he had such an opinion of his own perfection and 
his poetical vein in the rest of all his work, that he stuck not to 
set down the very first verse of his poem defective in measure, 
and not answerable to the rules of versifying. So much the 
rather, therefore, likely it is that they who set nothing before 
their eyes, nor aim at ought else but virtue only and honesty, 
will make use of the present occasion and the occurrence of 
affairs, fall out as they will, without regard of applause, hissing 
or any other noise whatsoever in token of liking or disliking 
their speech. 

Now every man ought to consider not only his own speeches, 
but also his actions, namely, whether they carry with them more 
profit and sound truth than vain pomp and ostentation; for if 
the true love indeed of young folk, man or woman, requireth no 
witnesses, but resteth in the private contentment and enjoying 
of their sweet delights, although the same were performed and 
their desires fully accomplished secretly between them without 
the privity of any person : how much more credible is it that he 
who is enamoured of honesty and wisdom, using the company 
and fellowship familiarly of virtue by his actions, and enjoying 
the same, shall find in himself without saying one word an 
exceeding great contentment, and demand no other hearers 
or beholders but his own conscience ? For like as he was but a 
vain fool who called unto his maid in the house and cried with 
a loud voice: Dionysia, come and see I am not proud and vain- 
glorious now as I was wont to be; even so he that hath done 
some virtuous and commendable act, and then goes forth to tell 
it abroad and spread the fruit thereof in every place, certain it is 
that such an one regards still outward vanities, and is carried 
with a covetous desire of vainglory, neither hath he ever had 
as yet a true sight indeed and perfect vision of virtue, but only a 
fantastical dream of her, imagining as he lies asleep that he 
seeth some wandering shadow and image thereof, and then after- 
ward representeth thus unto his view that which he hath done, 
as a painted table to look upon. 

Well, then, it is the property of him that proceedeth in virtue, 
not only when he hath bestowed something upon his friend, or 
done a good turn unto one of his familiars, for to make no 
words thereof; but also, when he hath given his voice justly, 
or delivered his opinion truly, among many others that are 

Of Proceeding in Virtue 359 

unjust and untrue j or when he hath flatly denied the unhonest 
request, or stoutly crossed a bad motion of some rich man, great 
lord or mighty magistrate; or refused gifts and bribes ; or pro- 
ceeded so far that being athirst in the night he hath not drunk 
at all ; or hath refused to kiss a beautiful boy or fair maiden and 
turned away from them coming toward him as Agesilaus did, 
to keep all this to himself and say nothing: For such a one as is 
content to be proved and tried by his own self, not setting light 
by that trial and judgment, but joying and taking delight in his 
conscience, as being a sufficient witness and beholder, both of 
good things and commendable actions, sheweth that reason 
hath turned in, to lodge and keep resistance with him, that it 
hath taken deep root there : and as Democritus saith : That he 
is well framed, and by custom brought to rejoice and take 
pleasure in himself. And like as husbandmen are more glad 
and willing to see the ears of corn hang down their heads, and 
bend toward the earth, than those who for their lightness stand 
straight, upright and staring aloft, for that they suppose such 
ears are empty, or have little or nothing in them, for all their 
fair shew; even so, among young men, students in philosophy, 
they that have least in them of any weight, and be most void, 
be those that are at the very first most confident; set the 
greatest countenance; carry the biggest port in their gait, and 
have the boldest face, shewing therein how full they are of pride 
in themselves, contempt of all others, and sparing of none: but 
afterwards, as they begin to grow on and burnish, furnishing 
and filling themselves with the fruits indeed of reason and 
learning, then and never before they lay away these proud 
looks; then down goes this vain pride and outward ostentation. 
And like as we see in vessels, whereinto men use to pour in 
liquor, according to the quantity and measure of the said liquor 
that goeth in, the air which was there before flieth out; even 
so to the proportion of those good things which are certain and 
true indeed, wherewith men are replenished, their vanity giveth 
place, all their hypocrisy vanisheth away, their swelling and 
puffing pride doth abate and fall, and giving over then to stand 
upon their goodly long beards and side robes, they transfer the 
exercise of outward things into the mind and soul within, using 
the sharp bit of bitter reprehension principally against them- 
selves. And as for others, they can find in their hearts to devise, 
confer, and talk with them more graciously and with greater 
courtesy; the manner of philosophy, and reputation of philoso- 
phers, they do not usurp nor take upon them, neither do they 

360 Plutarch's Morals 

use it as their addition in former time ; and if haply one of them 
by some other be called by that name, he will not answer to it; 
but if he be a young gentleman indeed, after a smiling and 
pleasant manner, yea, and blushing withal for shame, he will 
say thus out of the poet Homer: 

I am no god nor heavenly wight : 
Why dost thou give to me their right ? 

For true it is as ^Eschylus saith : 

A damsel young if she have known 
And tasted man once carnally, 
Her eye doth it bewray anon, 
It sparkles fire suspiciously. 

But a young man having truly tasted the profit and proceeding 
in philosophy, hath these signs following him, which the poetess 
Sappho setteth down in these verses : 

When I you see, what do I ail? 
First suddenly my voice doth fail, 
And then like fire a colour red, 
Under my skin doth run and spread. 

It would do you good to view his settled and staid countenance' 
to behold the pleasant and sweet regard of his eye, and to hear 
him when he speaketh : for like as those who are professed in any 
confraternity of holy mysteries, at their first assembly and 
meeting together, hurry in tumultuous sort with great noise, 
insomuch as they thrust and throng one another; but when they 
come to celebrate the divine service thereto belonging, and that 
the sacred relics and ornaments are once shewed, they are very 
attentive with reverent fear and devout silence; so, at the 
beginning of the study of philosophy, and in the very entry (as 
it were) of the gate that leadeth unto it, a man shall see much 
ado, a foul stir, great audaciousness, insolency, and jangling 
words more than enough; for that some there be who would 
intrude themselves rudely, and thrust into the place violently, 
for the greedy desire they have to win reputation and credit: 
but he that is once within and seeth the great light, as if the 
sanctuaries and sacred cabinets or tabernacles were set open, 
anon he putteth on another habit, and a divers countenance 
with silence and astonishment, he becometh humble, pliable and 
modest, ready to follow the discourse of reason and doctrine, 
no less than the direction of some god. To such as these, 
methinks, I may do very well to accommodate that speech 
which Menedemus sometime in mirth spake pleasantly: Many 
there be that sail to Athens (quoth he) for to go to school there, 

Of Proceeding in Virtue 361 

who when they come first thither seem sophi, 1 that is, be wise, 
and afterwards prove philosophic that is, lovers of wisdom; 
then of philosophers they become sophisters, 3 that is, professors 
and readers, until in process of time they grow to be idiots, 4 that 
is to say, ignorant and fools to see to : for the nearer that they 
approach to the use of reason and to learning indeed, the more 
do they abridge the opinion that they have of themselves, and 
lay down their presumption. 

Among those that have need of physic, some that are troubled 
with the toothache, or have a felon or whitflaw on their finger, 
go themselves to the physician for to have remedy; others who 
are sick of an ague send for the physician home to their houses, 
and desire to be eased and cured by him; but those that are 
fallen either into a fit of melancholy, or phrensy, or otherwise 
be distracted in their brains and out of their right wits, other- 
whiles will not admit or receive the physicians, although they 
came of themselves uncalled, but either drive them out of doors, 
or else hide themselves out of their sight, and so far gone they 
be and dangerously sick, that they feel not their own sickness; 
semblably of those who sin and do amiss, such be incorrigible 
and uncurable, who are grievously offended and angry, yea, and 
in mortal hatred with those who seem to admonish and reprove 
them for their misbehaviour; but such as will abide them, and 
are content to receive and entertain them, be in better state and 
in a readier way to recover their health : marry, he that yieldeth 
himself to such as rebuke him, confessing unto them his errors, 
discovering of his own accord his poverty and nakedness, un- 
willing that anything as touching his state should be hidden, 
not loving to be unknown and secret, but acknowledging and 
avowing all that he is charged with, yea, and who prayeth a 
man to check, to reprove, to touch him to the quick, and so 
craveth for help; certainly herein he sheweth no small sign of 
good progress and amendment: according to that which Dio- 
genes was wont to say : He that would be saved, (that is to say) 
become an honest man, had need to seek either a good friend or a 
sharp and bitter enemy, to the end that either by gentle reproof 
and admonition, or else by a rigorous cure of correction, he may 
be delivered from his vices. 

But how much soever a man in a glorious bravery sheweth to 
those that be abroad either a foul and threadbare coat or a 
stained garment, or a rent shoe, or in a kind of a presumptuous 
humility mocketh himself in that peradventure he is of a very 

1 ^o(poL. 2 <k\(5<ro0oi. 8 2o0i(rra/. * 'ISiwrcu. 

362 Plutarch's Morals 

low stature, crooked or hunch-backed, and thinketh herein that 
he doth a worthy and doughty deed; but in the meanwhile 
covereth and hideth the ordures and filthiness of his vile life, 
cloaketh the villanous enormities of his manners, his envy, 
maliciousness, avarice, sensual voluptuousness, as if they were 
beastly botches or ugly ulcers, suffering nobody to touch them, 
nay, nor so much as to see them, and all for fear of reproof 
and rebuke, certes, such a one hath profited but a little, or to 
speak more truly, never a whit at all; but he that is ready to 
encounter and set upon these vices, and either is willing and able 
(which is the chief and principal) to chastise and condemn, yea, 
and put himself to sorrow for his faults; or if not so, yet in 
the second place at the least can endure patiently, that another 
man by his reprehensions and remonstrances should cleanse and 
purge him; certes, evident it is that such an one hateth and 
detesteth wickedness indeed, and is in the right way to shake it 
off: and verily, we ought to avoid the very name and appearance 
only thereof, and to be ashamed for to be thought and reputed 
wicked; but he that grieveth more at the substance of vice 
itself than the infamy that cometh thereof, will never be afraid, 
but can very well abide both to speak hardly of himself and to hear 
ill by others, so he may be the better thereby. To this purpose 
may very well be applied a pretty speech of Diogenes unto a 
certain yonker, who perceiving that Diogenes had an eye on him 
within a tavern or tippling-house, withdrew himself quickly 
more inward, for to be out of his sight: Never do so (quoth he), 
for the farther thou fliest backward the more shalt thou be still 
in the tavern; even so a man may say of those that be given to 
vice, for the more that any one of them seemeth to deny his 
fault, the farther is he engaged and the deeper sunk in sin; 
like as poor men, the greater shew that they make of riches, the 
poorer they be, by reason of their vanity and bragging of that 
which they have not. But he that profiteth indeed hath for a 
good precedent and example to follow that famous physician 
Hippocrates, who both openly confessed and also put down in 
writing, that he was ignorant in the anatomy of a man's head, 
and namely, as touching the seams or sutures thereof; and this 
account will he make, that it were an unworthy indignity if 
(when such a man as Hippocrates thought not much to publish 
his own error and ignorance, for fear that others might fall into 
the like) he who is willing to save himself from perdition, cannot 
endure to be reproved, nor acknowledge his own ignorance and 
folly. As for those rules and precepts which are delivered by 

Of Proceeding in Virtue 363 

Pyrrho and Bion in this case are not in my conceit the signs of 
amendment and progress so much as of some other more perfect 
and absolute habit rather of the mind; for Bion willed and 
required his scholars and familiars that conversed with him, to 
think then (and never before) that they had proceeded and 
profited in philosophy, when they could with as good a will 
abide to hear men revile and rail at them, as if they spake unto 
them in this manner: 

Good sir, you seem no person lewd, 

Nor foolish sot, iwis: 
All hail, fair chieve you and adieu, 

God send you always bliss 

And Pyrrho (as it is reported), being upon a time at sea and in 
danger to be cast away in a tempest, shewed unto the rest of 
his fellow-passengers a porket feeding hard upon barley cast 
before him on shipboard : Lo, my masters (quoth he), we ought 
by reason and exercise in philosophy to frame ourselves to this 
pass, and to attain unto such an impassibility as to be moved 
and troubled with the accidents of fortune no more than this pig. 
But consider, furthermore, what was the conceit and opinion of 
Zeno in this point; for he was of mind that every man might 
and ought to know whether he profited or no in the school of 
virtue, even by his very dreams ; namely, if he took no pleasure 
to see in his sleep any filthy or dishonest thing, nor delighted 
to imagine that he either intended, did or approved any lewd, 
unjust or outrageous action; but rather did behold (as in a 
settled calm, without wind, weather and wave, in the clear 
bottom of the water) both the imaginative and also the passive 
faculty of the soul, wholly overspread and lightened with the 
bright beams of reason: which Plato before him (as it should 
seem) knowing well enough, hath prefigured and represented 
unto us what fantastical motions they be that proceed in sleep 
from the imaginative and sensual part of the soul given by 
nature to tyrannise and overrule the guidance of reason; 
namely, if a man dream that he seeketh to have carnal company 
with his own mother, or that he hath a great mind and appetite 
to eat all strange, unlawful, and forbidden meats ; as if then the 
said tyrant gave himself wholly to all those sensualities and 
concupiscences as being let loose at such a time, which by day 
the law either by fear or shame doth repress and keep down. 
Like as therefore beasts which serve for draught or saddle, if 
they be well taught and trained, albeit their governors and rulers 
let the reins loose and give them the head, fling not out nor go 

364 Plutarch's Morals 

aside from the right way, but either draw or make pace forward 
still, and as they were wont ordinarily keep the same train and 
hold on in one course and order, even so they whose sensual 
part of the soul is made trainable and obedient, tame and well 
schooled by the discipline of reason, will neither in dreams nor 
sicknesses easily suffer the lusts and concupiscences of the flesh 
to rage or break out unto any enormities punishable by law; 
but will observe and keep still in memory that good discipline 
and custom which doth ingenerate a certain power and efficacy 
unto diligence, whereby they shall and will take heed unto 
themselves : for if the mind hath been used by exercise to resist 
passions and temptations, to hold the body and all the members 
thereof as it were with bit and bridle under subjection, in such 
sort that it hath at command the eyes not to shed tears for pity; 
the heart likewise not to leap and pant in fear; the natural parts 
not to rise nor stir, but to be still and quiet without any trouble 
at all, upon the sight of any fair and beautiful person, man or 
woman; how can it otherwise be but that there should be more 
likelihood that exercise having seized upon the sensual part of 
the soul and tamed it, should polish, lay even, reform, and bring 
unto good order all the imaginations and motions thereof, even 
as far as to the very dreams and fantasies in sleep: as it is 
reported of Stilpo the philosopher, who dreamed that he saw 
Neptune expostulating with him in anger, because he had not 
killed a beef to sacrifice unto him as the manner was of other 
priests to do, and that himself, nothing astonied or dismayed 
at the said vision, should answer thus again : What is that thou 
sayst, Neptune ? comest thou to complain indeed like a child 
(who pules and cries for not having a piece big enough) that I 
take not up some money at interest, and put myself in debt, to 
fill the whole city with the scent and savour of roast and burnt, 
but have sacrificed unto thee such as I had at home according 
to my ability and in a mean? Whereupon Neptune (as he 
thought) should merrily smile and reach forth unto him his 
right hand, promising that for his sake and for the love of him 
he would that year send the Megarians great store of rain and 
good foison of sea-loaches or fishes called aphyce by that means 
coming unto them by whole sculls. Such, then, as while they 
lie asleep have no illusions arising in their brains to trouble 
them, but those dreams or visions only as be joyous, pleasant, 
plain, and evident, not painful nor terrible, nothing rough, 
malign, tortuous and crooked, may boldly say that these 
fantasies and apparitions be no other than the reflexions and 

Of Proceeding in Virtue 365 

rays of that light which rebound from the good proceedings in 
philosophy; whereas contrariwise the furious pricks of lust, 
timorous frights, unmanly and base nights, childish and exces- 
sive joys, dolorous sorrows and doleful moans, by reason of some 
piteous illusions, strange and absurd visions appearing in 
dreams, may be well compared unto the broken waves and 
billows of the sea beating upon the rocks and craggy banks of 
the shore; for that the soul having not as yet that settled per- 
fection in itself which should keep it in good order, but holdeth 
on a course still according to good laws only and sage opinions, 
from which when it is farthest sequestered and most remote, 
to wit, in sleep, it suffereth itself to return again to the old wont 
and to be let loose and abandoned to her passions : But whether 
these things may be ascribed unto that profit and amendment 
whereof we treat, or rather to some other habitude, having now 
gathered more strength and firm constancy not subject by 
means of reasons and good instruction to shaking, I leave that 
to your own consideration and mine together. 

But now forasmuch as this total impassibility (if I may so 
speak) of the mind, to wit, a state so perfect that it is void of all 
affections, is a great and divine thing; and seeing that this 
profit and proceeding whereof we write consisteth in a kind of 
remission and mildness of the said passions, we ought both to 
consider each of them apart and also compare them one with 
another, thereby to examine and judge the difference: confer 
we shall every passion by itself, by observing whether our lusts 
and desires be more calm and less violent than in former time, 
by marking likewise our fits of fear and anger, whether they be 
now abated in comparison of those before, or whether when they 
be up and inflamed, we can quickly with the help of reason 
remove or quench that which was wont to set them on work or 
afire: compare we shall them together, in case we examine our- 
selves whether we have now a greater portion of grace and 
shame in us than of fear; whether we find in ourselves emulation 
and not envy; whether we covet honour rather than worldly 
goods; and in one word, whether after the manner of musicians 
we offend rather in the extremity and excess of harmony called 
Dorian, which is grave, solemn, and devout, than the Lydian, 
which is light and galliard-like, that is to say, inclining rather 
in the whole manner of our life to hardness and severity than 
to effeminate softness ; whether in the enterprise of any actions 
we shew timidity and slackness, rather than temerity and rash- 
ness, and last of all, whether we offend rather in admiring too 

366 Plutarch's Morals 

highly the sayings of men and the persons themselves, than in 
despising and debasing them too low: for like as we say in 
physic it is a good sign of health when diseases are not diverted 
and translated into the noble members and principal parts of 
the body; even so it seemeth that when the vices of such as are 
in the way of reformation and amendment of life change into 
passions that are more mild and moderate, it is a good beginning 
of ridding them away clean by little and little. 

The Lacedaemonian Ephori, which were the high controllers 
of that whole state, demanded of the musician Phrynis, when 
he had set up two strings more to his seven-stringed instrument, 
whether he would have them to cut in sunder the trebles or the 
bases, the highest or the lowest? But as for us, we had need 
to have our affections cut both above and beneath, if we desire 
to reduce our actions to a mean and mediocrity. And surely 
this progress or proceeding of ours to perfection, professeth 
rather to let down the lightest first, to cut off the extremity of 
passions in excess, and to abate the acrimony of affections before 
we do anything else, in which, as saith Sophocles : 

Folk foolish and incontinent, 
Most furious be and violent. 

As for this one point, namely, that we ought to transfer our 
judgment to action, and not to suffer our words to remain bare 
and naked words still in the air, but reduce them to effect, we 
have already said, that is the chief property belonging to our 
progress and going forward: now the principal arguments and 
signs thereof be these; if we have a zeal and fervent affection 
to imitate those things which we praise; if we be forward and 
ready to execute that which we so much admire, and contrari- 
wise will not admit nor abide to hear of such things as we in our 
opinion dispraise and condemn. 

Probable it is and standeth with great likelihood that the 
Athenians all in general praised and highly esteemed the valour 
and prowess of Miltiades; but when Themistocles said that 
the victory and trophy of Miltiades would not give him leave to 
sleep, but awakened him in the night, plain it is and evident 
that he not only praised and admired, but had a desire also to 
imitate him, and do as much himself; semblably, we are to 
make this reckoning, that our progress and proceeding in virtue 
is but small when it reacheth no farther than to praise only and 
have in admiration that which good men have worthily done, 
without any motion and inclination of our will to imitate the 

Of Proceeding in Virtue 367 

same and effect the like. For neither is the carnal love of the 
body effectual, unless some little jealousy be mixed withal, nor 
the praise of virtue fervent and active which doth not touch the 
quick, and prick the heart with an ardent zeal instead of envy, 
unto good and commendable things, and the same desirous to 
perform and accomplish the same fully. For it is not sufficient 
that the heart should be turned upside down only, as Alcibiades 
was wont to say, by the words and precepts of the philosopher 
reading out of his chair, even until the tears gush out of the 
eyes: but he that truly doth profit and go forward, ought by 
comparing himself with the works and actions of good men, 
and those that be perfectly virtuous, to feel withal in his own 
heart, as well a displeasure with himself and a grief in conscience 
for that wherein he is short and defective, as also a joy and 
contentment in his spirit upon a hope and desire to be equal 
unto them, as being full of an affection and motion that never 
resteth and lieth still, but resembleth for all the world (according 
to the similitude of Simonides): 

The sucking foal that keeps just pace, 
And runs with dam in every place, 

affecting and desiring nothing more than to be wholly united 
and concorporate with a good man by imitation. For surely 
this is the passion peculiar and proper unto him that truly 
taketh profit by the study of philosophy; To love and cherish 
tenderly the disposition and conditions of him whose deeds he 
doth imitate and desire to express, with a certain goodwill to 
render always in words due honour unto them for their virtue, 
and to assay how to fashion and conform himself like unto 
them. But in whomsoever there is instilled or infused (I wot 
not what) contentious humour, envy, and contestation against 
such as be his betters, let him know that all this proceedeth 
from an heart exulcerated with jealousy for some authority, 
might and reputation, and not upon any love, honour, or admira- 
tion of their virtues. 

Now, whenas we begin to love good men in such sort that 
(as Plato saith) we esteem not only the man himself happy who 
is temperate; or those blessed who be the ordinary hearers of 
such excellent discourses which daily come out of his mouth; 
but also that we do affect and admire his countenance, his 
port, his gait, the cast and regard of his eye, his smile and 
manner of laughter, insomuch as we are willing, as one would say, 
to be joined, soldered, and glued unto him; then we may be 

368 Plutarch's Morals 

assured certainly that we profit in virtue; yea, and so much 
the rather, if we have in admiration good and virtuous men, not 
only in their prosperity, but also (like as amorous folk are well 
enough pleased with the lisping or stammering tongue; yea, 
and do like the pale colour of these whom for the flower of their 
youth and beauty they love and think it beseemeth them, as we 
read of Lady Panthea, who by her tears and sad silence, all 
heavy, afflicted and blubbered as she was, for the dolour and 
sorrow that she took for the death of her husband, seized 
Araspes so as he was enamoured upon her) in their adversity, so 
as we neither start back for fear, nor dread the banishment of 
Aristides, the imprisonment of Anaxagoras, the poverty of 
Socrates, or the condemnation of Phocion, but repute their 
virtue desirable, lovely and amiable, even with all these 
calamities, and run directly toward her for to kiss and embrace 
her by our imitation, having always in our mouth at every one 
of these cross accidents this notable speech of Euripides : 

Oh, how each thing doth well become 
Such generous hearts both all and some! 

For we are never to fear or doubt that any good or honest thing 
shall ever be able to avert from virtue this heavenly inspiration 
and divine instinct of affection, which not only is not grieved 
and troubled at those things which seem unto men most full 
of misery and calamity, but also admireth and desireth to imitate 
them. Hereupon also it followeth by good consequence, that 
they who have once received so deep an impression in their 
hearts, take this course with themselves : That when they begin 
any enterprise, or enter into the administration of government, 
or when any sinister accident is presented unto them, they set 
before their eyes the examples of those who either presently are 
or heretofore have been worthy persons, discoursing in this 
manner: What is it that Plato would have done in this case? 
what would have Epaminondas said to this? how would 
Lycurgus or Agesilaus have behaved themselves herein ? After 
this sort (I say) will they labour to frame, compose, reform, and 
adorn their manners as it were before a mirror or looking-glass, 
to wit, in correcting any unseemly speech that they have let 
fall, or repressing any passion that hath risen in them. They 
that have learned the names of the demigods called Idsei 
Dactyli, know how to use them as counter-charms or preserva- 
tives against sudden frights, pronouncing the same one after 
another readily and ceremoniously; but the remembrance and 

Of Proceeding in Virtue 369 

thinking upon great and worthy men represented suddenly unto 
those who are in the way of perfection, and taking hold of them 
in all passions and perplexions which shall encounter them, 
holdeth them up, and keepeth them upright, that they cannot 
fall; and therefore this also may go for one argument and token 
of proceeding in virtue. 

Over and besides, not to be so much troubled with any 
occurrent, nor to blush exceedingly for shame as beforetime, nor 
to seek to hide or otherwise to alter our countenance or anything 
else about us, upon the sudden coming in place of a great or sage 
personage unexpected, but to persist resolute, to go directly 
toward him with bare and open face, are tokens that a man 
feeleth his conscience settled and assured. Thus Alexander the 
Great, seeing a messenger running toward him apace with a 
pleasant and smiling countenance, and stretching forth his 
hand afar off to him: How now, good fellow (quoth he), what 
good news canst thou bring me more, unless it be tidings that 
Homer is risen again? esteeming in truth that his worthy acts, 
and noble deeds already achieved wanted nothing else, nor could 
be made greater than they were, but only by being consecrated 
unto immortality by the writings of some noble spirit; even so 
a young man that groweth better and better every day, and 
hath reformed his manners, loving nothing more than to make 
himself known what he is unto men of worth and honour; to 
shew unto them his whole house and the order thereof, his table, 
his wife and children, his studies and intents; to acquaint them 
with his sayings and writings; insomuch as otherwhiles he is 
grieved in his heart to think and remember, either that his 
father natural that begat him, or his master that taught him,, 
are departed out of this life, for that they be not alive to see in 
what good estate he is in and to joy thereat; neither would he 
wish or pray to the gods for anything so much as that they 
might revive and come again above ground, for to be spectators 
and eye-witnesses of his life and all his actions. 

Contrariwise, those that have neglected themselves and not 
endeavoured to do well, but are corrupt in their manners, 
cannot without fear and trembling abide to see those that belong 
unto them, no, nor so much as to dream of them. Add more- 
over, if you please, unto that which hath been already said, 
thus much also for a good token of progress in virtue: When 
a man thinketh no sin or trespass small, but is very careful and 
wary to avoid and shun them all. For like as they who despair 
ever to be rich make no account at all of saving a little expense ; 

37° Plutarch's Morals 

for thus they think: That the sparing of a small matter can 
add no great thing unto their stock, to heap it up; but con- 
trariwise, hope when a man sees that he wanteth but a little of 
the mark which he shooteth at, causeth that the nearer he 
cometh thereto, his covetousness is the more; even so it is in 
those matters that pertain to virtue: he who giveth not place 
much, nor proceedeth to these speeches: Well, and what shall 
we have after this ? Be it so now : It will be better again for it 
another time : and such-like : but always taketh heed to himself 
in everything; and whensoever vice insinuating itself into the 
least sin and fault that is, seemeth to pretend and suggest some 
colourable excuses for to crave pardon, is much discontented 
and displeased; he (I say) giveth hereby good evidence and 
proof that he hath a house within clean and neat, and that he 
would not endure the least impurity and ordure in the world 
to defile the same : For (as ^Eschylus saith) an opinion conceived 
once, that nothing that we have is great and to be esteemed 
and reckoned of, causeth us to be careless and negligent in small 
matters. They that make a palisado, a rampier or rough mud 
wall, care not much to put into their work any wood that cometh 
next hand, neither is it greatly material to take thereto any 
rubbish or stone that they can meet with, or first cometh into 
their eye, yea, and if it were a pillar fallen from a monument 
or sepulchre ; semblably do wicked and lewd folk, who gather, 
thrumble, and heap up together all sorts of gain, all actions 
that be in their way, it makes no matter what; but such as 
profit in virtue, who are already planted, and whose golden 
foundation of a good life is laid (as it were) for some sacred 
temple or royal palace, will not take hand over head any stuff 
to build thereupon, neither will they work by aim, but every- 
thing, shall be couched, laid, and ranged by line and level, that is 
to say, by the square and rule of reason : which is the cause (as 
we think) that Polycletus, the famous imager, was wont to say: 
That the hardest piece of all the work remained then to do, 
when the clay and the nail met together; signifying thus much: 
that the chief point of cunning and perfection was in the upshoot 
and end of all. 



[It should seem that Plutarch composed this book in mockery and 
derision of the Jews, whom he toucheth and girdeth at in one place, 
and whose religion he mingleth with the superstition of the pagans; 
to as much purpose (I wis) as that which he delivereth in a discourse 
at the table, where he compareth the feast of the Tabernacles, 
ordained by the eternal and almighty God, with the Bacchanals 
and such stinking ordures of idolators ; thinking verily that Bacchus 
was the god of the Jews. This slander of his and false calumniation 
ought to be imputed unto that ignorance of the true God, wherein 
Plutarch did remain enwrapped: yet is not he the man alone who 
hath derided and flouted the religion of the Jews; but such scoffs 
and derisions of the sages and wise men of this world, especially and 
above all when they are addressed against God, fall upon the head 
of the authors and devisers thereof, to their utter confusion. More- 
over, as touching this point, that some have thought this present 
discourse, wherein he endeavoureth and laboureth to prove super- 
stition to be more perilous than atheism, is dangerous to be read, 
and containeth false doctrine; for that superstition of the twain is 
not so bad : I say that in regard of the foolish devotion of Plutarch 
and such as himself, which in no wise deserveth the name of religion, 
but is indeed a derision and profanation of true piety and godliness, 
it were not amiss to affirm that superstition is more wretched and 
miserable than atheism, considering that less hurtful and dangerous 
it is for a man not to have his mind and soul troubled at all and 
disquieted with a fantastical illusion of idols and chimeras in the 
air, than to fear, honour and serve them in such sort as justice and 
humanity should in manner be abolished by such superstitious 
idolators. To be short, that it were better to defeat and overthrow 
at once all false gods than to lodge any one in his head, for to languish 
thereby in perpetual misery. Concerning true religion and the 
extremities thereof, the case is otherwise, and the question dis- 
putable, which we leave to divines and theologians to scan upon, 
to discourse and determine, since our intention and purpose urgeth 
us not at this time to discourse hereupon. 

But to return unto our author, considering that which we come 
to touch; atheists cannot find how to prevail and maintain their 
opinion: for sufficient process and accusation against themselves 
they carry every minute of an hour in their cauterised and seared 
conscience; but he sheweth that to worship and serve many idols 
is a thing without comparison more deplorable than to disavow 
and disclaim them all. But to prove this, after he had discovered 
the course of superstition and atheism, and declared the difference 


372 Plutarch's Morals 

of these two extremities, he saith, in the first place, that superstition 
is the most unworthy and unseemly of all the passions of the soul, 
proving the same by divers reasons, to wit; That the superstitious 
man is in continual perplexity, he dreadeth his own idol no less 
than a cruel tyrant, and imagineth a thousand evils even after his 
death. After this he taketh a view of the atheist, and opposeth 
him against the superstitious, resolving upon this point; that the 
superstitious person is more miserable of the twain, as well in 
adversity as prosperity, and to confirm and satisfy his assertion, he 
setteth down many arguments and notable examples. Moreover, 
he sheweth that the superstitious person is an enemy to all Deity or 
Godhead, he putteth clean out of his heart and treadeth under foot 
all humanity and righteousness for to please his idols, and in one 
word, that he is the most wretched caitiff in the world. And for a 
conclusion he exhorteth us so to fly superstition, that we hold our- 
selves from falling into atheism, keeping in the middle between; of 
which point every good man ought to consider and think upon well 
and in good earnest in these latter times of the world, albeit he who 
advertiseth us thereof in this place never knew what was true 

The ignorance and want of true knowledge as touching the gods 
divided even from the beginning into two branches, meeting on 
the one side with stubborn and obstinate natures, as it were 
with a churlish piece of ground, hath in them engendered 
impiety and atheism; and on the other side, lighting upon 
gentle and tender spirits like a moist and soft soil, hath bred and 
imprinted therein superstition: now as all error in opinion and 
judgment, and namely in these matters, is hurtful and dangerous 
enough; so if it be accompanied with some passion of the mind 
it is most pernicious. For this we must think, that every one 
of these passions resembleth a deception that is feverous and 
inflamed; and like as the dislocations of any joints in a man's 
body out of their place joined with a wound be worse than 
others to be cured; even so the distortions and errors of the 
mind meeting with some passion are more difficult to be re- 
formed. As, for example, set case that one do think that the 
little motes and indivisible bodies called atomi, together with 
voidness and emptiness, be the first elements and principles 
whereof all things are made; certainly this is an erroneous and 
false opinion of his; howbeit the same breedeth no ulcer, no 
fever causing disordinate pulse in the arteries, nor yet any 
pricking and troublesome pain. Doth some one hold that riches 
is the sovereign good of man ? This error and false opinion hath 
a rust or canker and a worm that eateth into the soul and tran- 
sported the same besides itself, it sufTereth it not to take any 

Of Superstition 373 

repose, it stingeth, it pricketh it and setteth it a-gadding, it 
throweth it down headlong (as it were) from high rocks, it stifleth 
and strangleth it, and in one word, it bereaveth it of all liberty 
and frank speech. Again, are there some persuaded that virtue 
and vice be substances corporal and material? this haply is a 
gross ignorance and a foul error, howbeit not lamentable nor 
worthy to be deplored: but there be other judgments and 
opinions like unto this: 

O virtue, wretched and miserable, 

Nought else but words and wind variable; 

Thee serv'd I daily with all reverence, 

As if thou hadst been some real essence: 

Whereas injustice neglected I have, 

Which would have made me a man rich and brave; 

Intemperance eke have I cast behind: 

Of pleasures all, the mother dear and kind. 

Such as these verily we ought to pity, yea, and withal to be 
offended at, because in whose minds they are once entered and 
settled they engender many maladies and passions like unto 
worms and such filthy vermin. 

But now to come unto those which at this present are in 
question: impiety or atheism, being a false persuasion and lewd 
belief that there is no sovereign nature most happy and incor- 
ruptible, seemeth by incredulity of a Godhead to bring mis- 
creants to a certain stupidity, bereaving them of all sense and 
feeling, considering that the end of this misbelief that there is 
no God, is to be void altogether of fear. As for superstition, 
according as the nature of the Greek word (which signifieth 
fear of the gods) doth imply, is a passionate opinion and turbulent 
imagination, imprinting in the heart of man a certain fearfulness, 
which doth abate his courage and humble him down to the very 
ground, whiles he is persuaded that they be gods indeed, but 
such as be noisome, hurtful, and doing, mischief unto men : In 
such sort, that the impious atheist, having no motion at all as 
touching the Deity and divine power, and the superstitious 
person moved and affected thereto after a perverse sort, and 
otherwise than he should, are both out of the right way. For 
ignorance, as it doth ingenerate in the one an unbelief of that 
sovereign nature which is the cause of all goodness, so it im- 
printeth in the other a misbelief of the Deity, as being the cause 
of evil: so that as it should seem, impiety or atheism is a 
false judgment and opinion of the Godhead; and superstition a 
passion proceeding from an erroneous persuasion. True it is 
that all maladies of the soul are foul and the passions naught; 

374 Plutarch's Morals 

howbeit in some of them there is a kind of (I wot not what) 
alacrity, haughtiness, and jollity, proceeding from the lightness 
of the mind; and to say in a word, there is in manner not one 
of them all destitute of one active motion or other, serving for 
action; but a common imputation this is and a blame laid 
generally upon all passions, that with their violent pricks (as it 
were) they incite, provoke, urge, compel, and force reason; 
only fear, which being no less void of audacity and boldness 
than of reason, carrieth with it a certain blockishness or 
stupidity, destitute of action, perplexed, idle, dead, without any 
exploit or effect whatsoever; whereupon it is named in Greek 
Selfxa, that is to say, a bond, and rdp/3os, that is to say, trouble, 
for that it both bindeth and also troubleth the mind. But of all 
sorts of fear there is none so full of perplexity, none so unfit for 
action as that of superstition. The man who saileth not is not 
afraid of the sea ; neither feareth he the wars who f olloweth not 
warfare; no more than he who keepeth home and stirreth not 
out of doors is afraid of thieves that rob by the highway-side; 
or the poor man that hath nought to lose, of the sycophant or 
promoter; nor he that liveth in mean estate, of envy; no more 
(I say) than he that is in Gaul feareth earthquake, or in 
Ethiopia thunder and lightning : but the superstitious man that 
stands in fear of the gods, feareth all things, the land, the sea, 
the air, the sky, darkness, light, silence, and his very dreams. 
Servants whiles they be asleep forget the rigour and hardness 
of their masters. Sleep easeth the chains, gyves, and fetters 
of those that lie by the heels bound in prison ; dolorous inflam- 
mations, smart wounds, painful ulcers and marimuls that eat 
and consume the flesh, yield some ease and alleviation unto 
patients whiles they be asleep, according as he saith in the 

O sweet repose, O sleep so gracious, 
That dost allay our maladies, 
How welcome art thou unto us, 
Bringing in season remedies! 

Thus said he: But superstition will not give a man leave thus 
to say: For it alone maketh no truce during sleep ; itpermitteth 
not the soul at any time to breathe and take rest, no nor suffereth 
it to pluck up her spirits and take heart again by removing out 
of her the unpleasant, tart, and troublesome opinions as touching 
the divine power; but as if the sleep of superstitious folk were 
a very hell and place of damned persons, it doth present unto 
them terrible visions and monstrous fancies; it raiseth devils, 

Of Superstition 375 

fiends, and furies, which torment the poor and miserable soul; 
it driveth her out of her quiet repose by her own fearful dreams, 
wherewith she whippeth, scourgeth and punisheth herself (as if 
it were) by some other, whose cruel and unreasonable command- 
ments she doth obey; and yet here is not all; for, that which 
worse is, such superstitious persons, after they be awakened out 
of their sleep and risen, do not as other men, despise their 
dreams, and either laugh thereat or take pleasure therein, for 
that they see there is nothing true in all their visions and 
illusions which should trouble and terrify them; but being 
escaped out of the shadow of those false illusions, wherein 
there is no harm or hurt at all, they deceive and trouble them- 
selves in good earnest, spending their substance and goods 
infinitely upon magicians, jugglers, enchanters, and such-like 
deceivers whom they light upon, who bear a man in hand and 
thus say unto him : 

If frighted thou be with fancies in sleep, 

Or haunted with Hecate that beneath doth keep, 

call for an old trot that tends thy backhouse, and plunge thyself 
in the sea water, and sit a whole day upon the ground, 

O Greeks, you that would counted be most wise, 
These barbarous and wicked toys devise; 

namely, upon a vain and foolish superstition, enjoining men to 
begrime and bewray themselves with dirt, to lie and wallow in 
the mire, to observe sabbaths and cease from work, to lie prostrate 
and grovelling upon the earth with the face downward, to sit 
upon the ground in open place, and to make many strange and 
extravagant adorations. 

In times past the manner was, among those especially who 
would entertain and observe lawful music, to command those 
that began to play upon the harp or cittern, to sing thereto 
with a just mouth, to the end they should speak no dishonest 
thing; and even we also require and think it meet to pray unto 
the gods with a just and right mouth, and not to pry in the 
beast sacrificed, to look into the entrails, to observe whether the 
tongue thereof be pure and right, and in the meantime perverting 
and polluting our own tongues with strange and absurd names, 
infecting and defiling the same with barbarous terms, offending 
thereby the gods, and violating the dignity of that religion which 
is received from our ancestors and authorised in our own 
country. The comical poet said pleasantly in one comedy, 

37 6 

Plutarch's Morals 

speaking of those who laid their bedsteads thick with gold and 
silver: Why do you make your sleep dear and costly unto your-| 
selves, which is the only gift that the gods have given us freely? I 
even so may a man very well say (and with great reason) unto 
those that are superstitious : Seeing that the gods have bestowed 
upon us sleep, for the oblivion and repose of our miseries, why 
makest thou it a very hell and place of continual and dolorous 
torment to thy poor soul, which cannot fly nor have recourse 
unto any other sleep but that which is troublesome unto thee? 
Heraclitus was wont to say: That men all the whiles they were 
awake, enjoyed the benefit of no other world, but that which 
was common unto all; but when they slept, every one had a 
world by himself: but surely, the superstitious person hath not 
so much as any part of the common world, for neither whiles he 
is awake hath he the true use of reason and wisdom, nor when 
he sleepeth is he delivered from fear and secured j but one thing 
or other troubleth him still: his reason is asleep, his fear is 
always awake; so that neither can he avoid his own harm quite, 
nor find any means to put it by and turn it off. Polycrates the 
tyrant was dread and terrible in Samos, Periander in Corinth, 
but no man feared either the one or the other who withdrew 
himself into any free city or popular state; as for him who 
standeth in dread and fear of the imperial power of the gods, as 
of some rigorous and inexorable tyranny, whither shall he retire 
and withdraw himself? whither shall he fly? where shall he 
find a land, where shall he meet with sea, without a god ? into 
what secret part of the world (poor man) wilt thou betake 
thyself, wherein thou mayst lie close and hidden, and be assured 
that thou art without the puissance and reach of the gods ? 

There is a law that provideth for miserable slaves, who being 
so hardly intreated by their masters, are out of all hope that they 
shall be enfranchised and made free, namely, that they may 
demand to be sold again and to change their master, if haply 
they may by that means come by a better and more easy servi- 
tude under another: but this superstition alloweth us not that 
liberty to change our gods for the better, nay, there is not a god 
to be found in the world whom a superstitious person doth not 
dread, considering that he feareth the tutelar gods of his native 
country, and the very gods protectors of his nativity: he 
quaketh even before those gods which are known to be saviours 
propitious and gracious; he trembleth for fear when he thinketh 
of them at whose hands we crave riches, abundance of goods, 
concord, peace, and the happy success of the best words and 

Of Superstition 377 

deeds that we have. Now if these think that bondage is a great 
calamity, saying thus: 

O heavy cross and woeful misery, 
Man and woman to be in thrall-estate: 
And namely, if their slavery 
Be under lords unfortunate, 

how much more grievous, think you, is their servitude which 
they endure who cannot fly, who cannot run away and escape, 
who cannot change and turn to another. Altars there be unto 
which bad servants may fly for succour; many sanctuaries there 
be and privileged churches for thieves and robbers, from whence 
no man is so hardy as to pluck and pull them out. Enemies, 
after they are defeated and put to flight, if in the very rout and 
chase they can take hold of some image of the gods, or recover 
some temple and get it over their heads once, are secured and 
assured of their lives ; whereas the superstitious person is most 
affrighted, scared and put in fear by that wherein all others who 
be afraid of extremest evils that can happen to man repose their 
hope and trust. Never go about to pull perforce a superstitious 
man out of sacred temples, for in them he is most afflicted and 

What needs many words? In all men death is the end of 
life; but it is not so in superstition, for it extendeth and 
reacheth farther than the limits and utmost bounds thereof, 
making fear longer than this life, and adjoining unto death an 
imagination of immortal miseries; and even then, when there 
seemeth to be an end and cessation of all sorrows and travails, 
be superstitious men persuaded that they must enter into others 
which be endless and everlasting: they dream of (I wot not 
what) deep gates of a certain Pluto, or infernal god of hell, which 
open for to receive them; of fiery rivers always burning; of 
hollow gulfs and floods of Styx to gape for them; of ugly and 
hideous darkness to overspread them, full of sundry apparitions ; 
of ghastly ghosts and sorrowful spirits, representing unto them 
grizzly and horrible shapes to see, and as fearful and lamentable 
voices to hear: what should I speak of judges, of tormentors, 
of bottomless pits and gaping caves, full of all sorts of torture 
and infinite miseries. Thus unhappy and wretched superstition, 
by fearing overmuch and without reason that which it imagineth 
to be nought, never taketh heed how it submitteth itself to all 
miseries; and for want of knowledge how to avoid this pas- 
sionate trouble, occasioned by the fear of the gods, forgeth and 

378 Plutarch's Morals 

deviseth to itself an expectation of inevitable evils even after 

The impiety of an atheist hath none of all this gear; most 
true it is, that his ignorance is unhappy, and that a great 
calamity and misery it is unto the soul, either to see amiss or 
wholly to be blinded, in so great and worthy things, as having 
of many eyes the principal and clearest of all, to wit, the know- 
ledge of God, extinct and put out; but surely (as I said before) 
this passionate fear, this ulcer and sore of conscience, this 
trouble of spirit, this servile abjection is not in his conceit; these 
go always with the other, who have such a superstitious opinion 
of the gods. Plato saith that music was given unto men by the 
gods, as a singular means to make them more modest and 
gracious, yea, and to bring them as it were into tune, and cause 
them to be better conditioned, and not for delight and pleasure, 
nor to tickle the ears: for falling out as it doth many times, 
that for default and want of the Muses and Graces there is 
great confusion and disorder in the periods and harmonies, the 
accords and consonances of the mind, which breaketh out other- 
whiles outrageously by means of intemperance and negligence; 
music is of that power that it setteth everything again in good 
order and their due place; for according as the poet Pindarus 
saith : 

To whatsoever from above, 

God Jupiter doth cast no love, 

To that the voice melodious 

Of Muses seemeth odious. 

Insomuch as they fall into fits of rage therewith, and be very 
fell and angry; like as it is reported of tigers, who if they hear 
the sound of drums or tabours round about them, will grow 
furious and stark mad, until in the end they tear themselves in 
pieces : so that there cometh less harm unto them who by reason 
of deafness or hard hearing have no sense at all of music, and 
are nothing moved and affected therewith: a great infortunity 
this was of blind Tiresias, that he could not see his children 
and friends, but much more unfortunate and unhappy were 
Athamas and Agave, who seeing their children, thought they 
saw lions and stags. And no doubt when Hercules fell to be 
enraged and mad, better it had been and more expedient for 
him, that he had not seen nor known his own children than so 
to deal with those who were most dear unto him, and whom he 
loved more than all the world besides, as if they had been his 
mortal enemies. 

Of Superstition 379 

Think you not, then, that there is the same difference between 
the passions of atheists and superstitious folk ? Atheists have no 
sight nor knowledge of the gods at all; and the superstitious 
think there are gods, though they be persuaded of them amiss; 
atheists neglect them altogether as if they were not; but the 
superstitious esteem that to be terrible which is gracious and 
amiable; cruel and tyrant-like which is kind and father-like; 
hurtful and damageable unto us which is most careful of our 
good and profit; rough, rigorous, savage and fell of nature which 
is void of choler and without passion. And hereupon it is that 
they believe brass-founders, cutters in stone, imagers, gravers 
and workers in wax, who shape and represent unto them gods 
with bodies to the likeness of mortal men, for such they imagine 
them to be, such they adorn, adore, and worship, whiles in the 
meantime they despise philosophers and grave personages of 
state and government, who do teach and shew that the majesty 
of God is accompanied with bounty, magnanimity, love, and 
careful regard of our good: So that as in the one sort we may 
perceive a certain senseless stupidity and want of belief in those 
causes from whence proceed all goodness; so in the other we 
may observe a distrustful doubt and fear of those which cannot 
otherwise be than profitable and gracious. In sum, impiety and 
atheism is nothing else but a mere want of feeling and sense of 
a deity or divine power, for default of understanding and knowing 
the sovereign good ; and superstition is a heap of divers passions, 
suspecting and supposing that which is good by nature to be 
bad ; for superstitious persons fear the gods, and yet they have 
recourse unto them ; they flatter them, and yet blaspheme and 
reproach them ; they pray unto them, and yet complain of them. 
A common thing this is unto all men, not to be always fortunate, 
whereas the gods are void of sickness, not subject to old age, 
neither taste they of labour or pain at any time : and as Pindarus 
saith : 

Escape they do the passage of the firth 

Of roaring Acheron, and live alway in mirth. 

But the passions and affairs of men be intermeddled with divers 
accidents and adventures which run as well one way as another. 
Now consider with me first and foremost the atheist in those 
things which happen against his mind, and learn his disposition 
and affection in such occurrences: if in other respects he be a 
temperate and modest man, bear he will his fortune patiently 
without saying a word ; seek for aid he will and comfort by what 
means he can; but if he be of nature violent, and take his 

380 Plutarch's Morals 

misfortune impatiently, then he directeth and opposeth all his 
plaints and lamentations against fortune and casualty; then he 
crieth out that there is nothing in the world governed either by 
justice or with providence, but that all the affairs of man run 
confusedly headlong to destruction: but the fashion of the 
superstitious is otherwise, for let there never so small an accident 
or mishap befall unto him, he sits him down sorrowing, and 
thereto he multiplieth and addeth other great and grievous 
afflictions, such as hardly be removed; he imagineth sundry 
frights, fears, suspicions, and troublesome terrors, giving himself 
to all kind of wailing, groaning, and doleful lamentation; for he 
accuseth not any man, fortune, occasion, or his own self; but 
he blameth God as the cause of all, giving out in plain terms that 
from thence it is that there falleth and runneth over him such a 
celestial influence of all calamity and misery, contesting in this 
wise, that an unhappy or unlucky man he is not, but one hated 
of the gods, worthily punished and afflicted, yea, and suffering 
all deservedly by that divine power and providence : now if the 
godless atheist be sick, he discourseth with himself and calleth 
to mind his repletions and full feedings, his surfeiting upon 
drinking wine, his disorders in diet, his immoderate travail and 
pains taken, yea, and his unusual and absurd change of air, from 
that which was familiar, unto that which is strange and un- 
natural: moreover, if it chance that he have offended in any 
matter of government touching the state, incurred disgrace and 
an evil opinion of the people and country wherein he liveth, or 
been falsely accused and slandered before the prince or sovereign 
ruler, he goeth no farther than to himself and those about him, 
imputing the cause of all thereto and to nothing else, and thus 
he reasoneth: 

Where have I been ? what good have I done ? and what have I not done ? 
Where have I slipp'd? what duty begun is left by me undone? 

whereas the superstitious person will think and say, that every 
disease and infirmity of his body, all his losses, the death of his 
children, his evil success and infortunity in managing civil affairs 
of state, and his repulses and disgraces, are so many plagues 
inflicted upon him by the ire of the gods, and the very assaults 
of the divine justice; insomuch as he dare not go about to seek 
for help and succour, nor avert his own calamity; he will not 
presume to seek for remedy, nor oppose himself against the 
invasion of adverse fortune, for fear (forsooth) lest he might seem 
to fight against the gods, or to resist their power and will when 

Of Superstition 381 

they punish him : thus when he lieth sick in bed, he driveth his 
physician out of the chamber, when he is come to visit him; 
when he is in sorrow, he shutteth and locketh his door upon the 
philosopher that cometh to comfort him and give him good 
counsel : Let me alone (will he say) and give me leave to suffer 
punishment as I have deserved, wicked and profane creature 
that I am, accursed, hated of all the gods, demigods, and saints 
in heaven. Whereas if a man (who doth not believe nor is 
persuaded that there is a God) be otherwise in exceeding grief 
and sorrow, it is an ordinary thing with him to wipe away the 
tears as they gush out of his eyes and trickle down the cheeks, 
to cause his hair to be cut, and to take away his mourning weed. 
As for a superstitious person; how should one speak unto him, 
or which way succour and help him? without the doors he sits 
clad in sackcloth, or else girded about his loins with patched 
clothes and tattered rags ; oftentimes he will welter and wallow 
in the mire, confessing and declaring (I wot not) what sins and 
offences that he hath committed ; to wit, that he hath eaten or 
drunk this or that which his god would not permit; that he 
hath walked or gone some whither against the will and leave of 
the divine power. Now, say he be of the best sort of these 
superstitious people, and that he labour but of the milder 
superstition; yet will he at leastwise sit within house, having 
about him a number of all kinds of sacrifices and sacred asper- 
sions; ye shall have old witches come and bring all the charms, 
spells and sorceries they can come by, and hang them about his 
neck or other parts of his body (as it were) upon a stake, as 
Bion was wont to say. 

It is reported that Tyribasus, when he should have been appre- 
hended by the Persians, drew his cimeter, and (as he was a 
valiant man of his hands) defended himself valiantly; but so soon 
as they that came to lay hands on him cried out and protested 
that they were to attach him in the king's name and by commis- 
sion from his majesty, he laid down his weapon aforesaid imme- 
diately, and offered both his hands to be bound and pinioned. 
And is not this whereof we treat the semblable case? whereas 
others withstand their adversity, repel and put back their 
afflictions, and work all the means they can for to avoid, escape 
and turn away that which they would not have to come upon 
them. A superstitious person will hear no man, but speak in 
this wise to himself: Wretched man that thou art, all this thou 
sufferest at the hands of God, and this is befallen unto thee 
by his commandment, and the divine providence; all hope he 

382 Plutarch s Morals 

rejecteth, he doth abandon and betray himself, and look, who- 
soever come to succour and help him, those he shunneth and 
repelleth from him. Many crosses there be and calamities in 
the world, otherwise moderate and tolerable, which superstition 
maketh mischievous and incurable. 

That ancient king Midas in old time being troubled and 
disquieted much in his mind (as it should seem) with certain 
dreams and visions, in the end fell into such a melancholy and 
despair, that willingly he made himself away by drinking bull's 
blood. And Aristodemus, king of Messenians, in that war which 
he waged against the Lacedaemonians, when it happened that the 
dogs yelled and howled like wolves, and that there grew about 
the altar of his house the herb called dent de chien, or dog's 
grass, whereupon the wizards and soothsayers were afraid (as of 
some tokens presaging evil), conceived such an inward grief and 
took so deep a thought, that he fell into desperation and killed 
himself. As for Nicias, the general of the Athenian army, haply 
it had been far better that by the examples of Midas and 
Aristodemus he had been delivered and rid from his superstition, 
than for fear of the shadow occasioned by the eclipse of the moon 
to have sitten still as he did and do nothing, until the enemies 
environed and enclosed him round about; and after that forty 
thousand of Athenians were either put to the sword or taken 
prisoners, to come alive into the hands of his enemies, and lose 
his life with shame and dishonour: for in the darkness occasioned 
by the opposition of the earth just in the midst, between the sun 
and the moon, whereby her body was shadowed and deprived of 
light, there was nothing for him to fear, and namely at such a 
time when there was cause for him to have stood upon his feet 
and served valiantly in the field; but the darkness of blind 
superstition was dangerous, to trouble and confound the judg- 
ment of a man who was possessed therewith, at the very instant 
when his occasions required most the use of his wit and under- 

The sea already troubled is 

With billows blew within the sound, 

Up to the capes and cliffs arise 

Thick misty clouds which gather round 

About their tops, where they do seat, 

Fore-shewing shortly tempests great. 

A good and skilful pilot seeing this, doth well to pray unto the 
gods for to escape the imminent danger, and to invocate and 
call upon those saints for help which they after call saviours : but 

Of Superstition 383 

all the while that he is thus at his devout prayers he holdeth the 
helm hard, he letteth down the cross sail-yard: 

Thus having struck the mainsail down the mast, 
He 'scapes the sea, with darkness overcast. 

Hesiodus giveth the husbandman a precept, before he begin to 
drive the plough or sow his seed: 

To Ceres chaste his vows to make, 
To Jove likewise god of his land, 
Forgetting not the while to take 
The end of his plough-tail in hand. 

And Homer bringeth in Ajax being at the point to enter into 
combat with Hector, willing the Greeks to pray for him unto the 
gods: but whiles they prayed he forgat not to arm himself at 
all pieces. Semblably, Agamemnon after he had given com- 
mandment to his soldiers who were to fight: 

Each one his lance and spear to whet, 
His shield likewise fitly to set, 

then, and not before, prayeth unto Jupiter in this wise: 

O Jupiter, vouchsafe me of thy grace, 
The stately hall of Priamus to race; 

for God is the hope of virtue and valour, not the pretence of 
sloth and cowardice. But the Jews were so superstitious, that 
on their sabbath (sitting still even whiles the enemies reared 
their scaling-ladders and gained the walls of their city) they 
never stirred foot, nor rose for the matter, but remained fast 
tied and enwrapped in their superstition as it were in a net. 
Thus you see what superstition is in those occurrences of times 
and affairs which succeed not to our mind, but contrary to our 
will (that is to say) in adversity : and as for times and occasions 
of mirth, when all things fall out to a man's desire, it is no better 
than impiety or atheism; and nothing is so joyous unto man 
as the solemnity of festival holidays, great feasts and sacrifices 
before the temples of the gods, the mystical and sacred rites 
performed when we are purified and cleansed from our sins, the 
ceremonial service of the gods when we worship and adore them ; 
in which all, a superstitious man is no better than the atheist: 
for mark an atheist in all these, he will laugh at them until he 
be ready to go beside himself; these toys will set him (I say) into 
a fit of Sardonian laughing, when he shall see their vanities; 
and otherwhiles he will not stick to say softly in the ear of some 
familiar friend about him: What mad folk be these? how 
are they out of their right wits and enraged who suppose that 

384 Plutarch's Morals 

such things as these do please the gods! Setting this aside, 
there is no harm at all in him. As for the superstitious person, 
willing he is, but not able, to joy and take pleasure: for his 
heart is much like unto that city which Sophocles describeth in 
these verses : 

Which at one time is full of incense sweet, 
Resounding mirth with loud triumphant song, 
And yet the same doth shew in every street 
All signs of grief, with plaints and groans among, 

he looketh with a pale face, under his chaplet of flowers upon 
his head; he sacrinceth, and yet quaketh for fear; he maketh 
his prayers with a trembling voice ; he putteth incense into the 
fire, and his hand shaketh withal; to be short, he maketh the 
speech or sentence of Pythagoras to be vain and foolish, who 
was wont to say: That we are then in best case when we 
approach unto the gods and worship them. For verily even 
then it is when superstitious people are most wretched and 
miserable, to wit, when they enter into the temples and sanc- 
tuaries of the gods, as if they went into the dens of bears, holes 
of serpents and dragons, or caves of whales and such monsters of 
the sea. I marvel much, therefore, at them who call the mis- 
creance and sin of atheists impiety, and give not that name rather 
to superstition. And yet Anaxagoras was accused of impiety; 
for that he held and said that the sun was a stone: whereas never 
man yet called the Cimmerians impious or godless because they 
suppose and believe there is no sun at all. 

What say you then? Shall he who thinketh that there be 
no gods at all be taken for a profane person and excommunicate ? 
and shall not he who believeth them to be such as superstitious 
folk imagine them, be thought infected with more impious and 
wicked opinions ? For mine own part, I would be better pleased 
and content if men should say of me thus : There neither is nor 
ever was in the world a man named Plutarch, than to give out 
of me and say: Plutarch is an unconstant man, variable, 
choleric, full of revenge for the least occasion that is, or dis- 
pleased and given to grieve for a small matter; who, if when you 
invite others to supper, he be left out and not bidden, or if upon 
some business you be let and hindered, so that you come not 
to his door for to visit him, or otherwise do not salute and 
speak unto him friendly, will be ready to eat your heart with 
salt, to set upon you with his fangs, and bite you, will not stick 
to catch up one of your little babes and worry him, or will keep 
some mischievous wild beast of purpose to put into your corn- 

Of Superstition 385 

fields, your vineyard or orchards, for to devour and spoil all 
your fruits. When Timotheus the musician one day in an open 
theatre at Athens chanted the praises of Diana, giving unto her 
in his song the attributes of Thyas, Phcebas, Maenas and Lyssas, 
that is to say, furious, possessed, enraged, and stark mad, as 
poets are wont to do, Cinesias, another minstrel or musician, 
rose up from out of the whole audience, and said thus aloud unto 
him: Would God thou haddest a daughter of those qualities. 
And yet these superstitious folk think the same of Diana, yea, 
and worse too: neither have they a better opinion of Apollo, 
Juno and Venus ; for all of them they fear and tremble at. And 
yet what blasphemy uttered Niobe against Latona, like unto that 
which superstition hath persuaded foolish people to believe of 
that goddess? to wit, that she being displeased with the re- 
proachful words that Niobe gave her, killed with her arrows all 
the children of that silly woman: 

Even daughters six, and sons as many just, 
Of ripe years all, no help, but die they must : 

so insatiable was she of the calamities of another, so implacable 
was her anger. For grant it were so, that this goddess was full 
of gall and choler; say, that she took an hatred to lewd and 
wicked persons, or grieved and could not endure to hear herself 
reproached, or to laugh at human folly and ignorance; certes, 
she should have been offended and angry, yea, and discharged 
her arrows upon these who untruly impute and ascribe unto 
her that bitterness and exceeding cruelty, and stick not both 
to deliver in words and also to set down in writing, such thi